There was a logic to Republicans’ 2011 debt-ceiling demands. It was the logic underpinning the party’s entire platform. It was the argument that had won them the 2000 election. And it was an argument that made sense as part of negotiations over the debt ceiling.

Deficits exploded during the financial crisis. Really, exploded. Here’s the graph:

deficits since 2000

Data: U.S. Budget; Graph: made with Infogram. Note: The lower the line, the larger the deficit.

In 2010, Republicans campaigned on a promise to bring debt and deficits down by cutting spending. When they won the election, they argued that it would be a betrayal of their mandate to permit the government to borrow more without first forcing the budget discipline they’d promised voters.

And so that’s exactly what they did. They negotiated spending cuts before they would agree to a debt-ceiling increase. But then something terrible happened to the Republican Party: Success.