Here’s the problem with this argument (apart, of course, from its assumption that the deficit is a problem that can be safely ignored through another election cycle and beyond). Suppose that everything Norquist claims to want comes to pass: The Republicans take the Senate in 2012, push through Ryan’s entire budget using reconciliation in 2013, and then President Mike Huckabee signs the whole package into law. How stable do you think that achievement would be? Seriously: Look at the polls on Medicare, and then meditate on the wisdom of trying to transform the program on a party line vote. (If you thought there was a backlash against Obamacare …) Yes, majorities come and go, but what one majority does another can undo, and I’m pretty sure that the Democrats wouldn’t have much trouble undoing the Ryan budget if the G.O.P. pushed it through in its current form.
The goal for conservatives, ultimately, has to be a sustainable right-of-center entitlement reform. If the Ryan budget is understood as a first step toward such a reform — a bold initial statement that establishes the G.O.P.’s seriousness on the deficit, provides a rough draft for later legislative efforts, and sets the stage for fruitful discussion and debate — then it will have served its purpose. If it’s treated as scripture that can’t be compromised or altered, then we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble.