Until 2011, Congress has never used the debt ceiling as a political hostage. Not once. Raising the debt ceiling was always an opportunity for one thing: the opposition party could score some points on fiscal responsibility via a few strongly-worded floor speeches. But the congressional Republican caucus' strategy is to threaten a default, then to mislead the public by suggesting that nothing bad will happen.
The cognitive dissonance within the tea party is already notorious (I'll have more tomorrow morning). Yesterday, for example, Sarah Palin quoted Ronald Reagan during her remarks at the rally near the World War II memorial in Washington, DC yesterday. So if we're bringing Reagan into this fracas, let's see what the former president had to say about raising the debt ceiling.