Unless you have been living in a cave, you have been inundated by the latest political show “The Fiscal Cliff.” In this action packed, seat-of-your-pants movie the very economic security of the nation is at issue. The plot is fairly simple, the Congress in a fit of partisan one up manship set up a mechanism where the tax and spending polices of the nation would radically alter right after the ball falls in Time Square. The Bush Tax cuts would end, and automatic, across-the-board cuts would be triggered.
It was a brilliant plan that missed one critical component, the Republicans were planing on a Lame Duck President presiding over the negations to prevent a crack up. Small problem, not only did the Democrat wipe the floor with Mr Magic Underwear, Obama had some coat tails in the Senate.
So the Republicans did what they are accustomed to doing when reality delivers a brutal bitch slap, they curled in a fetal ball and started throwing a tantrum. Having lost an election that should have been theirs in a walk, having lost ground in the Senate when they had a good chance of seizing it, the Republicans pretended that the election never happened, and insisted that Obama hand them the keys of governance.
It would be hilarious if it were not done in such deadly seriousness. A tectonic shift in political alliances is occurring. The Southern Strategy that served Richard NIxon to George W. Bush in sinking beneath the waves like Atlantis. The old, bitter, rural, white evangelicals of Dixie are dying out; and there is no one there to replace them.
Some of the more intelligent Elephants like the Bushes have been screaming about this for years. Republicans are surrendering too much ground in too many places to be viable outside the hot-house environs of the South. One really egregious example. The Republicans were quite proud they did well with voters whose household income was above $50,000. That’s great, they got the middle class vote, right? Not so fast. 50% of the nation lives at or below that number of $50K. It’s incredibly bad for your long-term political health to ignore the needs of 50% of the voters. There is a reason Obama won on the question of “understands my concerns” and it’s not because of gifts offered up by the Democrat.
But weirdly enough, after just getting clobbered on the meme of sympathy for ordinary folks, the Republicans are again doing their level best to prove what heartless slugs they are. They propose no tax increase for the wealthy and drastic cuts to safety-net programs; a double whammy in a weak economy were people are still feeling hard pressed. And to top it off the Republicans are again threatening the full faith and credit of the Nation to get their way.
It’s pretty obvious the Republicans expect Obama to cave as he did in 2010, when the TEA Party Congress was in full hurricane force. But this is not 2010. Obama no longer has to worry about reelection, and the political capital is on his side of the ledger. As the process gets closer to the end game, all Obama has to do is sit tight.
But can Obama do that, can he sit on his hands and let the Republicans drive the car off the cliff? Obama’s tendency to negotiate with himself is legendary. He does not seem to have the nerve to hold firm. His wish for a legacy, a grand bargain, is so obvious that it is an Achilles Heal. Obama wants so much to be the post-partisan, post-racial, post modern game changer. He so much wants to imprint his center-right stamp on the Presidency. He could easily blow the negotiations, again.
But my guess that the Republicans will save Obama from himself. They have learned nothing from this electoral wipe out, this nation-wide rejection of their ideology. They confuse the results of a deeply Gerrymandered House election for actual public approval. They are convinced that all they have to do is a little PR repackaging of their message and everything will be fine. They can not accept that their world view is no longer appealing to a large swaths of the voting public. Their inability to even accept the legitimacy of the Democratic Party’s is a blind spot that makes them both dangerous and ultimately incompetent. They are already convincing themselves that Obama’s victory was illegitimate. They still hew to the idea fixe that theirs is the only “true” party, that the Democrats are not “Real Americans” like them. They will gladly go off the fiscal cliff, so Obama may as well let them.
If tax rates go up and the Military gets cut, the blame will fall on the intransigent Republicans and their fanatical TEA Party cohort. After the crash and burn, Obama can pick up the pieces with a different Congress. The only thing standing in the way of this happening is Obama, and his incessant need to be seen as the great unifier.
For once I hope Obama can suppress that part of his make up. The only way he gets his legacy on his terms is by delivering a nuclear bitch-slap to John Boehner and company. I wonder if Barry is up to the job. Time to channel Thelma And Louise Mr. President. Time to grow a pair.