April 4, 2011
Do Republicans Want the White House?By Lee Cary
We Americans live in a political era when it's reasonable, perhaps even prudent, to consider the unthinkable.
Before the election of Barack Obama, most Americans were unable, or unwilling, to consider what his campaign promise to "fundamentally transform" the nation might mean. Before his election, those who used the word "socialism" to refer to his intentions were chided for being too extreme. (A longtime friend of mine said I'd "gone over the edge" in using such language.)
Not until Newsweek published a February 2009 article entitled "We Are All Socialists Now" did the word become widely acceptable, if used benignly.
The litany of previously unthinkable events that have unfolded since then, most recently including our role in Libya, don't need listing here. The hits just keep on comin', with no let-up in sight.
For example, when Fox Nation recently reported that former Clinton administration official Jamie Gorelick is on the short list to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we weren't shocked; we've grown accustomed to the unthinkable.
The New Socialist Democrat Party is now fully engaged in a relentless pursuit of what was, throughout the 20th Century, an intermittently-enacted, comprehensive, progressive agenda. The Tea Party Movement (TPM) emerged as a wrench, perhaps not unexpectedly but with unanticipated energy, tossed into the progressive machine. Consequently, über-progressive Democrats, like Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, simply label the TPM based on their experience of it. Anyone, or anything, that gets in their way is, by definition, "extremist" -- a label used by tyrants, big and small, throughout history to refer to their opponents.
Jump now to the 2011 budget battle underway in the House and Senate, with a focus on the House where scores of new members of Congress arrived, metaphorically carried on the shoulders of Tea Partiers.
Before the paint was dry on their office doors, speculation began as to whether they would be change agents and fundamentally transform the new Republican majority in the House, or merely conform to the well-entrenched good-ol-boy principle of go-along-to-get-along.
We've heard it said that the best tactic of House Republicans with regard to the 2011 budget is to compromise on cuts by backing off their promise to cut $100 billion from the remainder of this year's federal expenditures, so as to save their powder for the bigger battle over the 2012 budget.
Already it sounds as though the House Republican leadership is justifying the need to avoid a government "shut-down" -- which actually isn't a shut-down -- by meeting Democrats part way. "Compromise" is in the D.C. air, while TV pundits speculate over which party would be blamed for any potential "shut-down." (Talk concerning who could gain the credit for a shut-down is, on the other hand, conspicuous by absence.)
The "narrative arc" -- words Senator Obama liked to use during the campaign -- suggests that Speaker John Boehner will successfully cobble together a consortium of Republicans, perhaps excluding many of the newly elected members, along with moderate Democrats, meaning those Dems who want to be re-elected to their conservative-leaning districts in the next election.
At the end, the more progressive House Democrats will agree to insignificant 2011 budget cuts they'll say are necessary to placate the cold-hearted Republicans whom they'll accuse, with crocodile tears, of caring little for the poor, the elderly, the children, and the puppies. And that hollow metallic sound we'll hear will be the infamous can being kicked further down the road.
If this happens, conservatives in sympathy with the TPM, whether or not they ever attended a public gathering, will conclude this: The House GOP leadership caved to the Democrat minority because they care more for their careers than for the nation.
Already, the major meme voiced among House Republicans pushing a compromise is that, after all, they only control one-half of one-third of the federal government. (Imagine where we'd be if General George Washington at Valley Forge had said, "We only control a few thousand soldiers, so let's compromise with the British.)
If this is how the 2011 budget battle plays out, we'll have at least two ways to interpret it.
Conventional wisdom will say that Boehner and the Boys were careful to avoid blame for shutting down the government a la Newt Gingrich v. Bill Clinton in 1994-95. A shut-down would have weakened their position in the upcoming 2012 budget battle. (It's hard to see how surrendering in a small battle before a bigger one yields strength to the loser.)
But since this is the era when it's reasonable, perhaps even prudent, to think the unthinkable, let's suppose Boehner and the Boys do understand both the message and power of the TPM, and they'd rather not have it so closely aligned with the GOP going forward. Why? Because they fear the "extremist" label being applied to them.
Furthermore, let's think this unthinkable: that the GOP's primary goal in 2012 is to win the Senate, not the White House. And, given a choice, they'd choose the Senate. To that end, the House Republicans' willingness to negotiate an agreement with the Democrat-controlled Senate on the 2011 budget could eventually be cited as evidence of the GOP's ability to work cooperatively with a Democrat minority in the Senate, and, yet, temper the progressive initiatives likely to emerge out of a second term Obama White House.
The answer to the question -- Do Republicans want the White House? -- might be this unthinkable: No. Here's why: If the GOP controls both the legislative and executive branches after 2012, when the inevitable economic axe falls on our debt-ridden nation, they'll suffer the blame that will automatically befall the party of the incumbent Chief Executive.