Even though I blog about politics on occasion, I am not a strategist of some political mind. I’m just a simple pastor in the heartland who is on the center right and shares what he happens to be thinking at the moment.
And what I see at the moment for the Republican Party reminds me of all those times I played chess with my friend Marty Visser 30 years ago. We would get to a point where you were in checkmate. There was no way that I could get out of the mess that I was in. The only thing I could do is simply surrender, game over.
The GOP is bascially facing its own checkmate when it comes to the fiscal cliff. Yes, the President’s “plan” is laughable and not even serious about balancing the budget. However pleasing it might be to raise taxes on upper income Americans, the amount raised won’t pay for all the spending that is coming down the pike for Medicare, Social Security and Affordable Care Act. Yes, Obama and the Dems tend to see compromise as nothing more than terms of surrender. And yes, I think the President and the Democrats took the low road in trashing Mitt Romney.
But the fact of the matter is, President Obama won and as conservatives like to say, elections have consequences. The Democrats picked up more seats in both houses and the GOP has been weakened severely. The reason the President came out with his non-plan is because he doesn’t have to give anything up. He has all the cards and the GOP has none. It’s not fair and I think this is part and parcel of the president not living up to his high sounding rhetoric, but again, he won and life isn’t fair and politics even less so. Bill Kristol basically sums up the sorry state of Republicans in this post:
It’s also gradually sunk in that the GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and that the GOP has been thumped in three of the last four national contests (2006, 2008, and 2012). Since the end of the Cold War, the Republican party has had only two really good election days, in 1994 and in 2010. Those were both off-year victories in reaction to the mistakes of first-term Democratic presidents, and in neither case proved harbingers of presidential victory two years later.
Well, if the electoral scene isn’t pretty, maybe the legislative one is better? It’s true Republicans still control the House. But this turns out to be at best a mixed blessing. Because they’re in control, House Republicans are supposed to negotiate with the president on the budget and taxes. They’re united in scorning President Obama’s opening proposal. But what’s the GOP proposal for averting the fiscal cliff? There doesn’t seem to be one.
Might it be prudent for Republicans to acquiesce, for now, to a modified version of Obama’s proposal to keep current income tax rates the same for 98 percent of Americans, while also insisting on maintaining the reduced payroll tax rate of the last two years (see “The GOP’s Payroll Tax Opportunity” above) and reversing the dangerous defense sequester? That deal would be doable, wouldn’t wreck the country, and would buy Republicans time to have much needed internal discussion and debates about where to go next.
I tend to think this is the only option for the GOP. Yes, Bob Corker has a fairly good plan, but frankly, it’s a day late and a dollar short. The Democrats are not in a mood to be magnanimous. They won, they know it and they thumb their noses at the losers. I disagree with Kirstol that Obama’s plan won’t wreck the country, but again, elections have consequences. In a democracy when the people speak, we need to adhere to their word.
Politics is very much like chess or even war. There are times to charge forward, times to make alliances and times to retreat. This is a time to retreat, not to charge ahead. What needs to be done now is for the party to decide what it needs to do next. Many on the center right have come up with various ideas, but there is no coherent idea much less a person. This is a time for a strategic retreat to make battle plans for the future.
None of this means I think the Dems have better ideas. In many ways what the President and the Democrats are selling is warmed over New Deal/Great Society stuff which is not taking place in the same economic milleu that allowed for such ideas to take root. At some point, something in the future will expose their weak points. But in the meantime, the Republicans needs to tend to their own weak points. The GOP has to come up with ideas that really speak to the middle class, as well as to an America that is become more and more diverse.
If the GOP is smart, it will cave on this and let Obama have his win. And then let the party decide how to come up with a better answer than the Dems.