“In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault,” the paper reported.
Speaker Boehner, of course, has his own problems – he had a plan to force the White House to capitulate only to have it thwarted by the Tea Party Section of his party.
For his part, the Speaker does not believe his speakership is in trouble, despite the fact that Rasmussen gives the speaker a 51% unfavorable rating compared to just a 31% favorable. Only 55% of Republicans give him good marks.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has a lower unfavorable rating at 36%, despite the fact that his own state views him as unpopular.
This is, of course, all window dressing. The question is whether Speaker Boehner can cut the deal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for those making less than $250,000. The Republicans have been trying to raise that number. The failed “Plan B” had tax rates only increasing for those making over $1 million.
We have had gridlock in the past, but this seems worse, more hopeless, as though the political system is edging on the possibility of being unable to solve even basic political problems. Perhaps that is by design – after all, if you run on the notion that government does not work, why would you try to make it work once you were elected?
The consequences are increasingly serious. The fiscal cliff is overblown, rhetorical hype. If the tax cuts expire, the immediate impact on the country is probably seen by the overreaction of the fiscal markets.
It would be months before the tax policies had a real impact on the economy.
The bigger crisis is the debt ceiling. As we learned previously, that is not something to be trifled with, because if the nation starts defaulting on its loans, it could spell doom for the world’s economy.
At some point, I think we will get a deal here and elsewhere because, while it is true there is a huge and still growing partisan divide, the Republicans face a very real possibility of taking the full blame, not just on this issue, but the guns issue and others.
The reaction to the NRA gun proposal may actually help break that log jam. There was an article in the Sacramento Bee this morning that the proposal to put an armed police officer at every school would cost Sacramento’s school district $80 million.
I wondered how the Republicans would respond to their unexpected (at least to them) defeat at the hands of President Obama. The troubling part for the Republicans should have been the signs of demographics and where the bulk of the country stood in comparison.
But the truth is that things have not changed just yet for the Republicans. Some see a movement to the left by the electorate, when the reality is that the Republicans have simply moved far to the right.
It took the Democrats a long time to change. They had to endure 1968 to 1992, where the Democrats not only lost elections, they were blown out in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.
Bill Clinton changed that calculus temporarily, winning in 1992 and 1996. In fact, he actually changed the calculus permanently – the Democrats have not only won four of six elections, but were very competitive in their two losses in 2000 and 2004.
Now it appears the Republicans are on the brink of moving too far past the electorate. They have maintained their majority, thanks to a recoil against Obama in 2010 and a hearty gerrymandering of House districts that was able to overcome a net Democratic vote advantage.
It appears they will have to lose big in order to regain their sensibilities. Driving the country off the edge might do that, as voters appear ready to believe the Republicans are at fault here.
Writes Thomas Friedman this morning, the problem is the loss of the Republican center, “without more Republican moderates, there is no way to strike the kind of centrist bargains that have been at the heart of American progress – that got us where we are and are essential for where we need to go.”
“Republican politicians today have a choice,” Mr. Friedman writes, “either change your base by educating and leading G.O.P. voters back to the center-right from the far right, or start a new party that is more inclusive, focused on smaller but smarter government and market-based, fact-based solutions to our biggest problems.”
He argues, “If Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook – a base that would rather see every American’s taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires – the party has no future. It can’t win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time.”
How bad are things? Thomas Friedman notes, “Two weeks ago, the former G.O.P. Senate majority leader Bob Dole, a great American, went to the Senate floor in his wheelchair to show his support for Senate ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities.”
The bill failed to win the two-thirds needed for ratification, gaining only eight Republicans in support of the treaty, a treaty negotiated and signed by George W. Bush.
Given the last decade, it is hard to imagine that George W. Bush would be the voice of reason, but perhaps that is where we have come to.
Writes Mr. Friedman, the treaty “essentially requires other countries to improve to our level of protection for the disabled, without requiring us to change any laws. It has already been ratified by 126 countries. But it failed in the Senate because Rick Santorum managed to convince the G.O.P. base that the treaty would threaten U.S. ‘sovereignty.’ “
Maybe Speaker Boehner will surprise us, maybe he will put together a compromise that can get the support of enough Democrats and enough pragmatic and responsible Republicans to save this thing, but frankly I think the country needs to actually go off the edge before wiser heads prevail.
It won’t happen with the tax cuts, but it might happen with the debt ceiling. We will see. The danger is that a lot of innocent Americans will suffer in fighting this battle. The stakes are too high to let that happen.
—David M. Greenwald reporting