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The Tea Party and the G.O.P.: From Rescue to Wreck

7:58 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 mid-term elections, Peggy Noonan, tireless cheerleader for all things conservative, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “The Tea Party to the Rescue” In it Noonan gushed effusively as to how the emerging Tea Party movement had miraculously injected new energy and direction into a politically lethargic G.O.P. Coming just two years after the decisive 2008 defeat and after a period of strident conservative reaction to the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 economic crisis, federal spending increases and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Noonan, like so many others, had misinterpreted the 2010 elections. In these events she saw a return to a more conservative national trend seeing the election of Barack Obama as an aberration. As history played out it would be just the opposite. Today, in the wake of the stunning defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown and its failure to derail Obamacare one could reasonably conclude that, for the G.O.P., the rescue had turned into an undeniable and abysmal political debacle. In the words of conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer: “For conservatives this was a complete defeat. They will not try to shut down the government again. They’ll have less leverage in the next round.”

The defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown is just the latest setback to be sustained by the Tea Party backed Congress and along with it, the G.O.P. The question is how we got to this point. The answer is to be found in that now famous statement uttered before the Civil War by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay; “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” The need to compromise when operating under divided government has been completely lost upon congressional Tea Party Republicans. In fact, they reject compromise-seeing obstruction as a viable and operative strategy. This refusal to compromise in favor of continued obstruction has only worked to guarantee continued political defeat. To quote conservative columnist Ross Douthat opining on an earlier deficit spending impasse: “The inability of the Republicans to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into a losing one.”

Looking back since Obama was first elected we can see the futility of the original Republican goal of obstruction politics. The goal of making Barack Obama “a one term President” failed in 2012. The G.O.P.’s failure to accept defeat in 2012 and to go on pretending that elections do not have consequences and that Obamacare could be destroyed through defunding or delay has only further deepened their predicament. Likewise, the same is true of their unwillingness to accept the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The present Republican dominated congress is on track to be less productive than the last, which was the least productive on record. Congress has failed to pass a farm bill or appropriate needed infrastructure spending. Immigration reform is sidelined and forty some odd attempts to repeal Obamacare stand as a public record of wasted legislative effort. In an opinion piece titled “House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions” conservative commentator and Fox News regular Juan Williams pointed out, “There is absolutely zero chance that ObamaCare will be repealed while Democrats control the Senate and President Obama is in the White House. Reality also compels some mention of the fact that the GOP has never held a vote on any alternative plan for dealing with the nation’s out-of-control healthcare spending. But reality is a nuisance to Congressional Republicans intent on a brazen strategy to trip up the healthcare program before it can take its first step.” Likewise Newt Gingrich in an interview with Bloomberg News pointed out that Republicans had “zero answers” as to how they would replace Obamacare. Thus the government shutdown, engineered in another forlorn effort to upend Obamacare, can only be seen as the latest act in the thus far failed policy of obstruction politics, a strategy that has been years in the making.

In the political “Danse Macabre” that is political obstruction the government shutdown left ample room for both sides to posture and politic until that fateful moment during the second week of October when the reality of the Republican mistake came more clearly into focus. During that week the political poll numbers showed that, despite the public’s disgust with Washington in general, their dismay with the Republican Party specifically and more specifically with the Tea Party was just too much to be ignored. Citing a NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll: “By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama… Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll… Yet what is perhaps even more worrisome for the GOP is the “boomerang” effect: As the party has used the shutdown and fiscal fight to campaign against the nation’s health-care law and for limited government, the poll shows those efforts have backfired.” The net effect of these poll findings is that President Obama’s ratings went up as did support for the A.C.A. In fact, Obamacare was seen to be more popular than both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party. Disapproval of the Republican Party topped 70 percent vice 59 percent for the Democrats and 48 percent for the president.

The sinking popularity of the Tea Party was replicated in other polling results: “A Pew Research Center poll released this week showed public favorability for the Tea Party dropped to its lowest level since driving the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 elections. An AP-Gfk poll showed that 70 percent now hold unfavorable views of the Tea Party.” The Gallup findings, which replicate other polling further found that there is a growing ambivalance among Republicans for the Tea Party that was supposed to be it’s savior. Whereas three years ago when two thirds of Republicans supported the Tea Party today it’s down to 38 percent as per the latest Gallup Poll. The agony of public opinion would turn out to be too much to bear for the Republican esthablishment and it’s media supporters. Gone were the usual defelective commentary about an “oversampling” of “progressives” of the usual allegations about a liberal bias in the polling. A good barometer of how things are going within the conservative movement is Fox News and the arrival ot this disquieting news led to a distinct change in the commentary on that channel. Conservative stalwarts like Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Stephen Hays and Kristen Powers went from the usual scathing criticisms of Obama and the Democrats to publicly bemoaning the self destruction of the House Republicans to a veiled appeal to Obama himself not to rub their noses in defeat by spiking the ball in the end zone and dancing when compromise was finally in view.

The fallout from the Tea Party backed failure to defeat Obama via government shutdown is by now well documented and amply referenced below. The single best analysis that I found came from Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report: “They got nothing. This was a disaster for them. They picked a fight that they could not win. Moreover, in fact, all the political benefits accrue to the president and to the Democrats. The Republicans caved. The president did not have to compromise, so the Republicans start off with a weaker hand when they have to engage again. The Democrats are going to benefit from recruiting in congressional races. Republican money may dry up. I mean, this is a mess for Republicans… primarily the chaos in Washington and the fact that the Republicans are now more easily demonized and defined as the guys who are against anything and everything. Republicans are worried about both small-dollar fund-raising and big-dollar fund-raising. They’re concerned with the small-dollar folks because those are the true blue grassroots Tea Party conservatives who now have nothing — there’s no benefit from — the Republicans caved. They didn’t get anything…And the big donors, who are more pragmatic, are petrified at the thought the Republicans are going to drive the party and the country off the economic cliff. If you looked at — you also have to look at what the Republicans gave up. They gave up arguments over the past few weeks about the rollout of Obamacare and what a mess it was. And they’re just in an inferior position now.”

In the end, the Tea Party achieved nothing except inflicting further damage on an already ailing conservative movement, the American people and the economy as well. I predicted in a piece written before the 2010 elections, “An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck” that what we have just witnessed would be the most probable outcome of the rise of the Tea Party Movement. I believe that my prognosis has proven to be far more accurate than that of Ms. Noonan who apparently is still in rescue mode. In her latest piece on the shutdown, “Now Obama Rescues the GOP” Noonan once again misses the mark in suggesting that the mistakes, and hence the consequences, to both sides are equally the same and thus the GOP will be bailed out this time, not by the Tea Party but by Barack Obama himself. Of course nothing could be further from the truth as the polls and the post mortems reveal. The debacle that has now befallen the GOP extends far beyond the pale of public opinion polling to responsibility for inflicting billions of dollars worth of damage to the economy, figures range from $3.1 billion to $24 billion as estimated by Standard and Poors and a shaving of one half of one percent of growth from GDP.

Politically the GOP is seen to be adrift and rudderless, wracked from within, in full public view, by intensifying conflict between the Tea Party faction and the Republican esthablishment. Having twice lost in retaking the Senate there is talk about losing this opportunity a third time and an outside chance that they will lose the House in 2014 as well. Alexandra Jaffe writing for The Hill noted,…” polls showing voters primarily blamed Republicans for the crisis have even GOP strategists acknowledging that the prospects of a Senate takeover have dimmed.”

Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has said that 14 existing seats in the House are now more likely to swing to the Democrats in 2014. Fears of a drop off in campaign contributions to the GOP are now very real as is the prospect that the Party won’t be able to recruit atteactive candidates for 2014. Meanwhile the Democrats have seen an increased interest among those willing to run as well as the money flowing into the party in political contributions. While the Tea Party and the G.O.P. were going down to defeat on Capitol Hill, their candidate in the New Jersey special election for the Senate was defeated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Their candidate for Virginia Governor is trailing in the polls while the moderate Chris Christie of New Jersey, who said that the Republican dominated House of Representatives was “the definition of failure” is surging in his reelection bid. And even more consequential is the change in tone among business leaders who feel shut out of the political process by the very allies they bank rolled. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to industry trade groups down to individual C.E.Os there is talk about primarying Tea Party radicals with conservative centerist candidates.

One of the grat ironies of the Tea Party era is that for all of their commentary about taking the country back to the principles of the founders they have shown little in the way of respect for the political process they purport to defend. They have willingly and knowingly disregarded the results of elections and the decisions of the Supreme Court when those decisions don’t suit them. They have willingly and knowingly misrepresented public opinion polls claiming that a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare while ignoring the fact that a third of those who do, favor a single payer system, which in turn means that a majority of Ameiricans oppose their ideas on scuttling Obamacare. To some they have threatened the very essence of the democratic process. Tom Friedman in a pair of articles, referenced below, opined “What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule…When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.” Friedman in his second piece went on to compare the Tea Party to extremists in the Middle East saying: “The Tea Party is not a terrorist group. It has legitimate concerns about debt, jobs and Obamacare. But what was not legitimate was the line it crossed. Rather than persuading a majority of Americans that its policies were right, and winning elections to enact the changes it sought — the essence of our democratic system — the Tea Party threatened to undermine our nation’s credit rating if the Democrats would not agree to defund Obamacare. Had such strong-arm tactics worked, it would have meant that constitutionally enacted laws could be nullified if determined minorities opposed them.”

So what in the end did the Tea Party do to the G.O.P. and the rest of the country? Far from rescuing, it wrecked havoc on the party and the political process as well. Democratic political systems rely on the competition of ideas to move society forward or keep it from moving radically off course into the dangerous waters of extremism. The Tea Party has effectively crippled the Republican Party’s ability to compete politically on a national scale, in the process it has bailed out both the Democrats and Obama as all they need do is point to the chaos on the right, and ask the majority of the electorate if that is what they want. There is distinctly less need for politically competitive ideas to come out of the Democratic Party or the Obama administration in this political enviornment. Yes, it is true that the G.O.P. has made great strides in statehouses across the country but many of those state governments have parted company with the Tea Party movement choosing to participate in the federally funded expansion of Medicare and setting up health care exchanges. And it’s also true that most of the core Tea Party congressmen and women come from gerrymandered safe seats but in the long run that won’t save the movement either. Why, because what we just saw in crafting the compromise that ended the shutdown was moderate Republicans joining with Democrats to move legislation forward. This could be the template for the future that will effectively sideline the Tea Party faction and allow the Republican Party to function more effectively going forward. The unrelenting tide of demographic change will also, in the long run, work to change the voter composition in many of those districts now seen to be reliably Republican.

The politics of extremism have also sabotaged much of the original conservative agenda of 2010 and that is bad news for the Tea Party. Quoting political analyst David Fahrenthold, “Now, after forcing four national crises, the House GOP can count one major victory. One major defeat. And a large number of opportunities lost.” Has all of this affected the public perception of the G.O.P. in a politically dangerous way, the answer seems to yes or at least things may be trending that way. A recent CNN/ORC poll that came out after the shutdown showed: “A majority of Americans think it is bad for the country that Republicans control the House of Representatives, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to be replaced by another Republican…Fifty-four percent think it’s bad that Republicans control the House. That’s up from 43 percent in December 2012, during the last fiscal standoff. The figure is the first time a majority thought Republican control was bad for the country since CNN started asking in December 2010.” It appears that things are only getting worse for both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party on Capitol Hill. Commenting on the latest Washington Post – ABC Poll, the results of which were published today, Dan Balz writes: “The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove… There was little in the findings for the GOP to feel good about. The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP. The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.”

I have many friends and family members who belong to a Tea Party organization and they truly love their country and are legitimately concerned for it’s future. But what seems to be lost on so amny within this movement is that they don’t represent a majority of what the rest of the people want or how they want to achieve it. Ted Cruz stated after the shutdown defeat that the leadership on Capitol Hill had ignored the will of the people. But how could Cruz or anyone else make such a claim when 70 percent of those responding to opinion polls show disatisfaction with the Tea Party movement and only 21 percent view it favorably? If the Tea Party were so popular they would have a president in the White House and control both houses of Congress but they don’t. If you don’t control the government you can only be successful through compromise and the Tea Party can’t abide such a thing so they’ve effectively put themseleves out of the business of effecting positive change thereby opting instead to participate by subverting the democratic process. While this may be an essential tenent of the movement and it’s stated goal of cleaning house in Washigton in the long run it’s counter to American political culture. This strategy can only lead to further defeat and a further weakening of the Republican Party. Far from being the saviors of the G.O.P. the Tea Party is politically an albatross round it’s neck.

In his farewell missive to Indiana voter’s Senator Richard Lugar pointed out the problems that result from extremist politics and positions and in doing so he echoed that long ago phrase of Henry Clay that is still relevant today and that the Tea Party crowd just dosen’t seem to understand, “ If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Does that mean that we are witnessing the G.O.P. in its death throes? Not neccesarily but there’s no denying that the Party and the conservative movement is politically behaind the proverbial eight ball. However, all factors considerd, one thing is for sure, and that is there’s nothing to say that a given political party has to last for ever. Vote for any Whigs or Federalists lately?

Steven J. Gulitti
10/22/13

Sources:

Peggy Noonan: “The Tea Party to the Rescue” Wall Street Journal 10/22/10

Compromise as Liability; http://swampland.time.com/2011/07/14/compromise-as-liability/?artId=52271?contType=article?chn=us

Ross Douthat: The Republican Retreat; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/opinion/18douthat.html?emc=eta1

Taboo in Today’s GOP? Realism and Compassion; http://www.alternet.org/story/153205/taboo_in_today%27s_gop_realism_and_compassion

Farm bill setback opens House GOP up to new attacks about ability to lead; http://thehill.com/homenews/house/306981-farm-bill-setback-opens-gop-to-attacks-about-ability-to-lead

The dysfunctional House; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/farm-bill-dysfunctional-house-93137.html

Juan Williams – Opinion: House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/299227-opinion-house-republicans-prefer-sabotage-to-real-solutions-

Gingrich Scolds Republicans for Not Offering Alternatives; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-15/gingrich-scolds-republicans-for-not-offering-alternatives.html

Tea party lawmakers see the culmination of years of effort in shutdown; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-shutdown-tea-party-lawmakers-see-the-culmination-of-years-of-effort-to-downsize-government/2013/10/02/3207126a-2ab3-11e3-8ade-a1f23cda135e_story.html

A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html

GOP lawmakers bridle at calling Affordable Care Act the law; http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/325277-gop-lawmakers-bridle-at-calling-obamacare-the-law

Obamacare fight reenergizes tea party movement; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamacare-fight-reenergizes-tea-party-movement/2013/09/27/f88ce6c8-2796-11e3-ad0d-b7c8d2a594b9_story.html?hpid=z1

NBC/WSJ poll: Shutdown debate damages GOP; http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/10/20903624-nbcwsj-poll-shutdown-debate-damages-gop?lite

Poll: Six in 10 would replace every member of Congress; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/327933-poll-republican-approval-sinks-to-24-percent

Support for tea party slips; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/tea-party-support-poll-97385.html

Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low; http://www.gallup.com/poll/164648/tea-party-support-dwindles-near-record-low.aspx

Senate Republicans: GOP Didn’t Gain Anything By Forcing Shutdown; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/senate-republicans-government-shutdown_n_4109845.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

House GOP extracts no concessions; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/house-gop-extracts-no-concessions-government-shutdown-debt-ceiling-deal-98443.html

Republicans grapple with stinging defeat; http://thehill.com/homenews/news/329005-republicans-grapple-with-stinging-defeat

Winners and losers of the debt-limit fight; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/328977-winners-and-losers-of-the-debt-limit-fight

Republicans reassess after shutdown debacle; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/republicans-reassess-after-shutdown-debacle/2013/10/17/e312159e-375d-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/us/fiscal-crisis-sounds-the-charge-in-gops-civil-war.html?ref=todayspaper

Shutdown showdown widened GOP-tea party rift; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/shutdown-showdown-widened-gop-tea-party-rift

House tea partiers not anteing up for 2014; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/tea-party-house-members-snub-gop-in-2014-98568.htm

GOP unity frays, frustration builds; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/republican-unity-frustration-debt-ceiling-government-shutdown-98032.html\

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/10/31/an_impending_and_inevitable_train_wreck

Peggy Noonan – Now Obama Rescues the GOP; http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2013/10/06/now-obama-rescues-the-gop/

Shutdown to Cost U.S. Billions, Analysts Say, While Eroding Confidence; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/19/us/shutdown-to-cost-us-billions-analysts-say-while-eroding-confidence.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/business/economy/high-cost-to-the-economy-from-the-fiscal-impasse.html?_r=0

Pelosi to GOP: Was tantrum worth $24B?; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/329161-pelosi-was-gop-temper-tantrum-worth-24b

While GOP ‘picked a fight that they couldn’t win,’ Democrats emerge reunited; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/julydec13/shutdown2_10-16.html

The GOP is adrift, floundering; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/judd-gregg/326821-opinion-the-gop-is-adrift-and-floundering

G.O.P.’s Hopes to Take Senate Are Dimming; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/us/politics/gops-hopes-to-take-senate-are-dimming.html?ref=politics&_r=0

Fiscal Armageddon could remake Hill in 2014 elections; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/debt-ceiling-continuing-resolution-fiscal-armageddon-congress-94785.html

Far-Right Republicans Could Hit A Tipping Point As Support Falters; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/06/far-right-republicans_n_4055431.html

Democrats hope GOP chaos in fall will help them win back House;

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/house-races/318331-dems-hope-fall-chaos-will-help-them-take-back-house

GOP In Danger Of Losing House As Popularity Plummets; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/11/gop-losing-house_n_4083775.html

Democrats Have A Shot At Taking Back The House As Republican Popularity Continues To Drop: Poll; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/20/democrats-take-back-house_n_4133836.html

Election prospects put a spring in the step of Senate Democrats; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/329755-election-prospects-put-a-spring-in-the-step-of-senate-democrats

Opinion: Independents desert GOP; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/328165-opinion-independents-desert-gop

Conservative groups struggling to recruit candidates in key 2014 races; http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/308825-conservatives-groups-struggling-to-recruit-in-key-races

GOP fears fundraising disaster; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/gop-fears-fundraising-disaster-96679.html

Republicans’ issues give Democratic recruiting a boost; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/gops-issues-give-democratic-recruiting-a-boost-98583.html

In budget and debt fight, White House finds unlikely alliance with business groups; http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-budget-and-debt-fight-white-house-finds-unlikely-alliance-in-business-community/2013/10/11/5840060e-32a0-11e3-8627-c5d7de0a046b_story.html?hpid=z1

Businessweek’s Ted Cruz Cover Will Haunt Your Dreams; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/bloomberg-businessweek-ted-cruz-cover_n_4122022.html

Business Voices Frustration with GOP; http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579139903054309502

Majority Of Americans Think It’s ‘Bad For The Country’ That Republicans Control The House; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/republicans-control-house_n_4135328.html

October 2013 Post-ABC poll – Obama, Republicans and shutdown fallout; http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/10/22/National-Politics/Polling/release_272.xml

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-major-damage-to-gop-after-shutdown-and-broad-dissatisfaction-with-government/2013/10/21/dae5c062-3a84-11e3-b7ba-503fb5822c3e_story.html

Tom Friedman – Our Democracy Is at Stake;

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/opinion/friedman-our-democracy-is-at-stake.html

Tom Friedman: From Beirut to Washington; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/opinion/sunday/from-beirut-to-washington.html?ref=todayspaper

David Fahrenthold – Amid four national crises, many of GOP’s goals after retaking House have been ignored; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/amid-four-national-crises-many-of-gops-goals-after-retaking-house-have-been-ignored/2013/10/19/741b4c32-3802-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story_1.html

GOP Could Pay a price for Gerrymandering; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/gop-could-pay-price-for-gerrymandering-93597.html

Cruz: No surrender; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/329505-cruz-no-surrender

The Importance of Dick Lugar’s Farewell Warning; http://swampland.time.com/2012/05/09/the-importance-of-dick-lugars-farewell-warning/

A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

Newt Gingrich’s Dream, Driven by the Winds of Folly?

11:15 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Well Newt Gingrich stuck his toe into the 2012 race by setting up a presidential exploratory website called NewtExplore2012.com. It’s nothing more than the first step before officially declaring a candidacy. However, the real question is, why would Gingrich even bother? Now don’t get me wrong, every citizen has the right to run for elected office, unless they have a criminal record that prohibits them from so doing. But in the case of Gingrich, as they say on the street, he’s got a rap sheet as long as your arm. That said what does he realistically hope to accomplish?
 
In its present state, the Republican Party has gone from a semi-moribund, post George Bush establishment, to an organization refueled by Tea Party activists. As a result, Republican contenders for the 2012 presidential race are tripping all over themselves to pander to the far right. That in and of itself bodes ill for the G.O.P. as independent voters have decided the last three elections and with politics in America being played within the 40 yard lines, as per Charles Krauthammer, too much of an overture to the fringe players on the far right could spell the kiss of death for a Republican candidate hoping to win in 2012.
 
Beyond the pitfall of pandering too much to the full mooners on the fringe, Gingrich has enough skeletons in his closet to staff an amusement park house of horrors. First and foremost there are his multiple marriages. He was in such a hurry to get out of one marriage that he presented his cancer stricken wife with divorce papers while she was still in the hospital. He had an affair with his current wife while still married to his former spouse. Gingrich was in the midst of an extra marital affair while orchestrating the impeachment of Bill Clinton for having had an affair with Monica Lewinsky along with issues related to Paula Jones. Surely, none of this can sit well with the religious
 fundamentalists let alone the broader electorate. 
 
In addition to Mr. Gingrich’s marital melodrama there are issues such as twenty two bounced checks and a book signing scandal, not exactly the sort of fanfare one would want attending the announcement of a run for the presidency. Then there’s Gingrich’s attempt to portray Barack Obama as some sort of outsider. As you will recall Gingrich went to great lengths portray Obama as harboring anti-colonial sentiments, borne of his Kenyan heritage, that showed Obama both hated the West and imperiled our relationship with Great Britain. Gingrich has joined the bizarre chorus of the “Birthers’, who don’t believe that Barack Obama was born here, leading White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to observe: “You would normally expect better from somebody who had held the position of Speaker of the House.”
 
Thus all of this begs the question: With all of this baggage and with already having a track record of failure, having shut down the government to the detriment of the G.O.P. and thereafter being driven from the post of Speaker of the House, why now bother to try to resurrect your political career at a time like this? This question is all the more germane when you consider the closet full of skeletons Mr. Gingrich has in tow. American politics allows for second acts, but they often take place outside of elected office, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter being two excellent examples. It appears to me that Mr. Gingrich had his chance and ultimately blew it. Not only did he blow it but he blew it so badly that it’s foolish for him to try to get in the way of a rising class conservative leaders now taking the stage. Ultimately Gingrich’s presidential aspirations will be blown by the winds of folly onto the rocks of political reality. His political day has come and gone and it’s not going to come back. It’s just a matter of time before he himself comes to that realization.
 
Steven J. Gulitti
 
3/4/2011
 
 
Sources:
 

Newt Gingrich Launches Presidential Exploratory Site

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/03/newt-gingrich-launches-presidential-exploratory-site/71992/

 

Newt Gingrich Affair Questioned By College Student

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/23/newt-gingrich-affair_n_826970.html

 

Newt Gingrich’s Skeleton Closet

http://www.realchange.org/gingrich.htm

 

House Banking Scandal: Newt Bounced 22 Checks

http://www.realchange.org/gingrich.htm
 

Book Deals: Murdoch’s $4.5 Million wasn’t the first

http://www.realchange.org/gingrich.htm
 

Huckabee Questions Obama Birth Certificate

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/huckabee-questions-obama-birth-certificate-claims-he-was-raised-in-kenya/