Well. Actually, the case is that Barack Obama will never be as powerful as he is now. Term limits on the presidency mean that every day after inauguration means he becomes one day closer to being irrelevant, with no replacement currently in sight. Absent a major Republican screw up, like shutting down the government, they may be expected to gain seats in 2014, if history is any indication, that is.
Imagine that we had a Republican president. Would the party be deeply divided over policy, at war with itself in Congress? Not at all. It would be rallying around something like the Paul Ryan budget that twice passed the House with near 100 percent GOP unanimity.
In reality, Republicans have a broad consensus on program and policy. But they don’t have the power. What divides Republicans today is a straightforward tactical question: Can you govern from one house of Congress? Should you even try?
Can you shrink government, restrain spending, and bring a modicum of fiscal sanity to the country when the president and a blocking Senate have no intention of doing so?
The party establishment is coming around to the view that if you try to govern from one house — e.g., force spending cuts with cliffhanging brinkmanship — you lose. You not only don’t get the cuts. You get the blame for rattled markets and economic uncertainty. You get humiliated by having to cave in the end. And you get opinion polls ranking you below head lice and colonoscopies in popularity.
There is history here. The Gingrich Revolution ran aground when it tried to govern from Congress, losing badly to President Clinton over government shutdowns. Nor did the modern insurgents do any better in the 2011 debt-ceiling and 2012 fiscal-cliff showdowns with Obama.
The more prudent course would be to find some offer that cannot be refused, a short-term trade-off utterly unassailable and straightforward. For example, offer to extend the debt ceiling through, say, May 1, in exchange for the Senate’s delivering a budget by that date — after four years of lawlessly refusing to produce one.
Not much. But it would (a) highlight the Democrats’ fiscal recklessness, (b) force Senate Democrats to make public their fiscal choices, and © keep the debt ceiling alive as an ongoing pressure point for future incremental demands.
Go small and simple. Forget about forcing tax reform or entitlement cuts or anything major. If Obama wants to recklessly expand government, well, as he says, he won the election.
Republicans should simply block what they can. Further tax hikes, for example. The general rule is: From a single house of Congress you can resist but you cannot impose.
Aren’t you failing the country, say the insurgents? Answer: The country chose Obama. He gets four years.
Want to save the republic? Win the next election. Don’t immolate yourself trying to save liberalism from itself. If your conservative philosophy is indeed right, winning will come. As Margaret Thatcher said serenely of the Labor Party socialists she later overthrew: “They always run out of other people’s money.”
Dr Krauthammer’s prescriptive above has two things going for it: It’s better than nothing. And it’s the only option that does not leave Republicans holding the bag for Democrat policies.
The old political saying, that when ones political opponent is burying himself…don’t do anything to interfere with the effort, applies here. What a previously unskillful Republican party is realizing that, having lost the elections, things will have to get worse for their message to resonate with the American people. Why should they make any effort to shoulder the blame for what will inevitably come, from policies that will inevitably not be their own?
Democrats won the election. The American people elected them. Doing anything that prevents those Americans from learning from their mistakes merely harms not only Republican chances for winning and remediating the harm, it makes that task all that much harder when the opportunity finally comes. “You break it, you bought it” is the only rational policy. That is, if you don’t expect to be sharing in the blame later on. Shut down the government and you’ll get all the blame, and it won’t wait for later on. Then, you can start thinking about 2020, because you’ll already have shot 2016 in the butt.