Talking Points

Democrats own the debt ceiling debacle

If the United States government should default on the national debt during the next few weeks, Democrats will be responsible.

This is a practical truth: Democrats occupy the White House and narrowly control both the House and Senate. They run the joint. It's also a political reality. A new poll shows a third of Americans would blame Democrats for the default, while just 16 percent would put the onus on Republicans. (Four in 10 would blame both parties.)

That doesn't mean this assignment of responsibility is entirely fair. Preserving the full faith and credit of the United States is a bipartisan constitutional obligation, and the GOP has contributed its fair share to the tab. Nonetheless, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his colleagues have vowed that Democrats will have to raise the federal debt ceiling on their own. Considering the predicted consequences of default — six million jobs lost, $15 trillion in wealth erased — the Republican position is beyond reckless

Democrats and progressive commentators are frustrated, not just with the GOP's nihilism, but at "both sides" media coverage of the issue. "If the blame is generally apportioned to both sides, it nevertheless seems like the onus is always on Democrats to fix the problem," Dan Froomkin wrote Tuesday at Press Watch. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) agreed on Twitter: "I'm sick to my stomach that Republicans are explicitly promising to take the country into an economic abyss and many reporters are like 'How wily! How will Democrats navigate this?'" "It's simply taken for granted that Republicans break things and Democrats clean up after them," added Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

Well ... yes.

It's unfortunate only one party in America is dedicated to responsible governance, but there's little to be done about it at the moment. The media treats the debt ceiling as a Democratic problem because Democrats are the party willing to do something about it. It's that simple. Democrats are the grownups — and have to act like it. 

Being an adult often means doing the right and necessary thing and getting little credit, if not plenty of blame. It's no fair, but until Republicans stop acting like children, Democrats have no choice.