It’s possible to take this line of argument too far, of course. All else equal, it’s easier to reach a deal when the representatives from each side have a history of working well together. But we have deep-seated polarization in American politics because the donors, activists, and office-holders of the two parties are committed to very different ideological programs. And we have repeated high-stakes brinksmanship because one party—that would be the Republicans—has decided to abandon political convention in pursuit of its goals, which means that once-routine actions like keeping the government running or raising the debt ceiling are now part of the fight.
In the wake of Obama’s press conference today—which featured plenty of presidential praise for Boehner, but also made clear how far we are from a debt ceiling deal—it will be interesting to see what journalistic frame prevails. Will reporters adopt business-world jargon about a “lack of trust” undermining the debt ceiling talks? Or will they tell the story in terms of political parties, which is the only way to understand what’s really going on?