Thursday, November 4, 2010

GOP: Obama Must Narfle the Garthok

I’d put the chances at better than 50-50 that Republicans take such a hard line on the budget.
But they are on the meter now, and people will be watching. Suppose the President moves right and puts substantive cuts on the table, and offers to make some of the changes to healthcare reform that the GOP has suggested. Imo, this a given, just as it is a given that the GOP will countersell any such offers as far too little. Americans will split the difference and assume the truth is somewhere in between. the usual partisan half-truths. Remember, few Americans trust politicians to give it to us straight
Then suppose the GOP digs in its heels and says it’s not enough. That’s likely to please the hardcore. Right? But I seriously doubt that it will please impatient independents who would like to see pragmatic moves in the right direction. Now.
In such an environment, the chances are better than ever for viable independent and moderate candidates.
Possible Obama line: “The Republicans are leaving a perfectly good half loaf at the table, and going home to Americans empty-handed with a story that it’s the Democrats’ fault.”
The brinksmanship of insisting that only a whole loaf (or most of it) will do is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Newt Gingrich was sure it would work against Clinton, But Americans blamed Republicans for being too rigid and shutting down the government. The result was that Bill Clinton got to take most of the credit for later balancing the budget. Because Clinton positioned himself as the reasonable one, protecting regular folks from overweening partisanship.
Gingrich BTW is a really smart guy with a colossal ego. So he and the cohort of the GOP inner circle may have convinced itself that this time some sort of similar brinksmanship scheme will work. The basis is probably that people are angrier this time, and more committed to shrinking government.
Maybe they are right. Or maybe Americans, while quite committed to the idea in general, will prove more squeamish when faced with drastic particulars.
Will they want an extra couple hundred billion in cuts if they directly reduce federal aid to their state, which will reduce state aids to towns. Which will force each town to choose between higher property taxes and less police,m fire, and school money. Maybe we’ll all be that brave and that willing to sacrifice now. If Republicans lead the way in making an insolvent California grovel and insist on draconian cuts and policy changes, how will that play out across California, and on TV before the nation.
Even if you or I are basically behind the making of hard fiscal choices, we have to appreciate what a tightrope this will be to walk. Every hard move of brinksmanship by the GOP is a bet on the intestinal fortitude of Americans, on their willingness to put what’s best for the country fiscally as a whole against their personal interests, whether that means school funding, social security, still uncontrolled healthcare costs… .
Right or wrong policywise, it’s a ballsy bet if the really GOP chooses to make it. If they do, they’ll be the ones forced to endure an endless parade of TV anecdotes about the people being hurt, and the phones ringing off the hook with constituents telling them that while they agree with the policy of across the board cuts, their particular sacred cow really does need full funding, because they’ve already cut to the bone.
It has been comparatively easy for the GOP to talk tough at the national level. It is going to be MUCH harder to act tough with the whole country watching. 

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