07/26/2011 04:01 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2011

"But We Promised!" Says the GOP

"That's what they sent me here to do!"

Let's assume that you're right, O Mighty Republican Congressional Class of 2010. Let's assume, that is, that the budget plans you're pushing now are the same ones you were pushing during your campaigns last fall. Let's assume that your constituents heard you, and understood just what your budget plans would mean, and they were all for it.

Let's assume, too, that those budget plans were the major reason -- or even a major reason -- they voted for you. (Rather than, say, "It's time for a change" or they liked your smile or Incumbent Jones is a total schlub.)

Let's assume all of that. And let's do one more thing: Let's set aside the whole question of whether the plans you're pushing are good policy, or misery on steroids; we'll leave that conversation for another day, OK?

So where are we? We're here: You each ran a campaign based on those ideas, and you made your plans explicit. Your constituents heard what you said, understood what you said, supported what you said, and it was a large part of why they voted for you and sent you to Washington.

So welcome to Washington.

And welcome to the Capitol Building. Welcome to the House chamber -- you and the rest of your GOP freshman class, 80-some strong and ready for action.

Have you had a chance to look around?

Do you notice all those other seats in the House chamber? Do you notice all those other people in all those other seats?

Their constituents sent them to Washington, too.

Amazing but true: If there are 80-some of you, there are 300-some of them. And more than a few of them -- Democrats, for instance, but not just Democrats -- ran campaigns very different from yours. Their plans, their promises, were very different from yours; in some cases they were the exact opposite of yours.

You promised lower taxes and smaller government; they promised programs that would put people back to work, or repair crumbling roads and bridges, or invest more in education, or fund research into the technologies of the future.

And let's assume, the same way we did with you, that their constituents heard their plans, and understood them and supported them. Let's assume, the same way we did with you, that those plans were a large part of why their constituents voted for them and sent them to Washington.

So where are we? We're here: You made commitments to your constituents, and they made commitments to their constituents. You promised to do X, and they promised, in many cases, to do Not-X. You don't have enough votes in the House and the Senate to do X. (Remember the Senate? You don't run the Senate.) They don't have enough votes in the House and the Senate to do Not-X.

Now what?

Well, you can do what you've been doing: You can plant your feet in concrete, reject any hint of compromise, and keep repeating like a trained parrot: "That's what they sent me here to do!" You can threaten to hold your breath until you turn blue. (Or would blue be selling out? What if you hold your breath until you turn orange?)

You get absolutely everything you campaigned on, you insist, and they give up absolutely everything they campaigned on, or you take the economy right over the edge.

And I have to admit: Your approach is winning. You keep collecting concession after concession, although never quite enough concessions to satisfy you.

Here's the part I'm missing, though: Why is it that we're supposed to treat your commitments, to your constituents, as sacred, and unalterable, and everyone else's commitments, to their constituents, as fish wrap?