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A Pew Research Center poll released on Tuesday sheds some light on why a disturbing number of right-wing congressmembers don’t believe that the federal government should raise the debt ceiling: They are accurately representing the feelings of their constituents.

The poll finds that 51 percent of Americans believe that it is “absolutely essential” that the federal debt limit be increased before the Thursday deadline, at which the U.S. would be at risk of defaulting on its debt. Just 36 percent believe that Congress can go past the deadline.

A majority of Republicans disagrees with the conclusions of just about every reputable economist, however… 52 percent of Republicans — and 56 percent of self-described conservatives — say that the U.S. can go past the deadline without major economic consequences.

Among Republicans who self-identify as Tea Partiers, a startling 69 percent believe that the government doesn’t need to raise the debt limit by October 17 — and a 52 percent majority says that the debt limit doesn’t have to be raised at all. Ever.

Half of Tea Party Republicans Say Debt Limit Does Not Ever Need to be Increased

Needless to say, economists — and credit agencies — disagree.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the same folks who believed that “skewed” polls were hiding the truth about the 2012 elections now believe that nothing will happen if Congress decides not to pay the government’s bills. But if Congress can’t reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling, the consequences this time will be far more dire than a few mea culpas from Fox News.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and President Joe Biden during 2020 presidential debate

I look at September 2019 as a month where I missed something. We began with a trip to New York to do Seth Meyers’s and Dr. Oz’s shows. Why would we go on The Dr. Oz Show? For the same reason we had gone on Joe Rogan’s podcast in August: We could reach a vast audience that wasn’t paying attention to the standard political media. On Dr. Oz, Bernie could talk about Medicare for All and his own physical fitness. While at the time we believed Bernie was uncommonly healthy for his age, he was still 78. Questions would be raised related to his age, and we needed to begin building up the case that he was completely healthy and fit. It turned out to be a spectacular interview, ending with the two of them playing basketball on a makeshift court in the studio. Bernie appeared to be on top of the world.

Yet in retrospect, I should have seen Bernie growing more fatigued. After New York, with the school year starting, we did a series of rallies at colleges and universities in Iowa; this was the kickoff of our campus organizing program in the state. We would then fly to Colorado for a large rally in Denver before heading to Boulder to prep for the third debate, to take place in Houston on September 12. In Iowa, Bernie’s voice was a little hoarse. After the rally in Denver, he had completely blown it out. He sounded terrible.

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When I interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

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