Monday, December 3, 2012

Let's Make a Deal: Top 4 Reasons We're Still Headed for the Cliff

The Fiscal Cliff/Slope/Happy-Fun-Ride is still coming.  It's self-made, and totally avoidable.  So why is it barreling towards us?

Ever feel like somebody's looking over your shoulder?
1. Boehner Can't Control His Caucus.  Recent Republican Leadership History in the House has been all about hierarchy and top-down control.  There have been strong leaders who were feared, like Gingrich and DeLay.  Boehner is not that guy, and he doesn't have that Caucus.

The Tea Partiers tend to be convinced that Republicans haven't been tough enough (I'm not sure what exactly they were picturing, because it's not like Gingrich, DeLay, Bush and Cheney were, you know, weak-willed).  They also don't seem to have much respect for, or knowledge about, the workings of American governance.  That's why they are totally cool with staging High Noon over raising the Debt Ceiling, which is a real, actual problem for the country - because it is evaluated not by our own political system, but external parties, who can do things like give us a worse credit rating (which wastes a ton of our own money by making us borrow at higher interest rates).

In the last debt ceiling fight Boehner would "make a deal" but then go to his Caucus and get a big "No."  I suppose this could be gamesmanship, but I doubt it - because it's making Boehner look weak.  Looking weak is a big deal in politics.  So part of the problem here is that Boehner can't, like Gingrich, say "we're going to shut the government down if you don't give us X" or "we're going to impeach the president" - because his people can't be counted on to follow him.  That's tough for Republicans, but it's also tough for Democrats - because how do you get the deal when the guy you're dealing with keeps having to talk to his manager every five minutes?  Boehner has shown signs of change - he's directly enlisted Paul Ryan to put some skin in the game.  That's potentially an opportunity for Ryan, a snub of Cantor (with whom Boehner has clashed in the past), and a chance to blame either if things fall apart.  Pretty good strategy from Boehner, and he doesn't usually seem like long-term strategy is his strong-point.  We'll see.

2. The President Has Grown More Confident.  Hey, I don't know if you've noticed, but President Obama was recently reelected.  And not only was he reelected, the prospect of never having to run for office again seems to have loosened Prez up, and made him a tad more relaxed with his bad self.  He's also more popular, post-election.


That's bad news for Republicans, but it's also a sign that where there was a greater willingness to fold on the Democrats' part last time we addressed this kind of an impasse, that may be less true now.  That's potentially even MORE likely because if we go over the fiscal cliff, Democrats don't have to vote to raise taxes (psst, Republicans - you wouldn't have to, either).

Bad Grover, Heel!
3. Outside Actors.  Oh, Grover Norquist.  Go away.  Club for Growth?  You too.  You're really going to try this whole "expunging" thing again, after what happened with Dick Lugar?  Outside conservative groups are getting in the way of progress because they think they will win if they can only stay pure.  But guys, you've got to start learning from actual history, and stop just taking the lesson you want to take from everything.  You didn't lose because you weren't conservative enough.  You lost because you showed just how conservative you want to be, and it freaked a lot of people out.  The only reason you kept the House is because of gerrymandering (which is just bad for democracy).  You're causing a schism between voters and rational, conservative politicians.  It's a game of chicken that we all lose.

P.S. Don't choose now to get uppity, Liberals.  Hopefully your meeting with the President included his letting you know his parameters.  It's cool to place pressure, that's helpful, but don't threaten to run primary challenges to Dems who vote for a reasonable compromise.

Pride is cute in puppies.  Not so much in politicians.

4. Pride.  It's a big deal in politics.  It's gotten in the way of all kinds of progress.  You don't go into American politics unless you have a strong ego.  But the best politicians, the really successful ones, can take a hit for the common good.  Often, they end up lauded for it.  So be the bigger guy, everybody.  Focus long-term, focus on good governance.  You can do it!

No comments:

Post a Comment