Isaac Chotiner goes after the "pathological need to appear evenhanded" that Matt Bai shows in one of his typically awful pieces of "analysis" today. And Chotiner is correct: Bai's claim that Democrats are as inflexible as Republicans on budgetary issues is really pure bunk.
But as bad as that point is, the entire premise of the piece -- that the fanaticism displayed by the GOP candidates on taxes during last night's debate and the supposed matching Democratic attitude explains "why voters keep dumping incumbents of both parties and registering an alarming disdain for Washington generally" -- is far worse.
I'll explain. I'll try to use very small words. (Yes, I'm cranky. This stuff is really annoying).
The reason voters are unhappy is because the economy stinks. That's all. They don't have jobs. They're afraid of losing the jobs they have. The value of their houses tanked. They know people who are out of work.
That is why voters are unhappy.
Oh, and that other part, about "registering an alarming disdain for Washington"? That's certainly not because of political polarization, since it's been true since...aw, it's probably been true since before there was a Washington, D.C. People always hate Congress, whatever is happening there.
By the way, it wouldn't be Bai if we didn't have a faulty specific historical claim. In this case, it's that "fewer and fewer Americans engage as activists in either party." I don't have any handy citations on this one, but it's got to be exactly backwards -- we know that Bush '04 and Obama '08 were both highly participatory campaigns, albeit structured a lot different.
By the way...I probably should do a separate item about this, but I really wish that Fox had made the alternative clearer in that question about taxes and spending. I'm sure that most of the Republicans who rejected the 10-for-1 hypothetical deal would explain that what they would prefer is a 10-for-0 deal. What the moderators should have posited was a choice between the 10-for-1 deal and no deficit reduction at all. That's a real choice, and it would have made it a bit clearer that Republicans are relatively indifferent to deficit reduction. On the other hand, I do sympathize a bit with the candidates; the question asks whether they would accept a deal, but why should a candidate for president reveal what she would accept at the end of a negotiation? I mean, it's irrelevant here because the GOP position really is that tax cuts are more important than anything else, but it's still not, in my view, a very good question.