Thanks for the help Tea Party, now get out of the way
“Never mind that they may be right for the wrong reasons. Never mind that their prescription (a return to some form of Jeffersonian idyll) is impractical and misguided. The Tea Party has helped wake Washington up to the massive deficit crisis that has been slowly unfolding. But any deal that will avoid default and credit downgrade will never get their vote.”
It may seem strange to say, but the influence of the Tea Party on the US government deficit could still turn out to be a very healthy thing for America in the long run. As the old adage goes about the impact of that other revolution, the French one in 1789, “it’s too soon to tell”.
But now the other 75% of the American body politic needs to get together and do things the right way. At this stage any deal that will do any good will likely end up with terms that the Tea Party will want to vote down. Fair enough. Their Representatives in Congress have moved the debate and the outcome hugely in the direction that they wanted and in a direction that it needed to go. From their perspective they should be reasonably happy.
However, “reasonable”, like “compromise”, is not in their lexicon. Along with those on the left who believe that we cannot touch a single hair on a single head of any entitlement the absolutists need to join the compromise in the center or they need to get lost.
For those who are used to a more parliamentary system of government, this will all seem a little strange. Modern US politics has usually made progress when a center ground comes together and a bi-partisan approach to legislation ensues. That way both houses of Congress and the White House can usually agree on a course of action.
In a parliamentary system, we vote for a government of a given shade and we take the consequences of four or five or six years of what they give us. For better or worse the US system tends to demand more compromise (or inertia?) and the biannual elections for the lower House of Representatives means that Congresspeople are in perennial election mode.
They may cast themselves as the modern day Paul Revere, but we can’t just blame the Tea Party zealots for this impasse. They are doing in Washington what they believe the people who voted for them asked them to do.
Rather we should hold accountable the majority of sensible Republicans (around 70% of the Congress Reps from that party) who are giving into the Tea Party veto. As recently as this morning Speaker Boehner took another move to the extremists with his Deficit bill. He should be looking across the aisle for 100 Democrat votes rather than pandering further to an extreme that is a SIGNIFICANT minority of both politicians and of the country at large.
The Tea Party has helped wake Washington up to the massive deficit crisis that is slowly unfolding. Never mind that it is mainly as a result of one unnecessary war, one badly-fought war, and a load of tax breaks for the rich, as well as lack of entitlement reform. (see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/28/us/charting-the-american-debt-crisis.html?ref=politics). Never mind that they may be right for the wrong reasons. Never mind that their prescription (a return to some form of Jeffersonian idyll) is impractical and misguided.
We need to acknowledge their input and move on with the gang of six Grand Bargain that is both significant in scope and balanced in approach. As many people have said, a 3:1 balance of cuts to revenue is not only the right shape of a deal, but also represents a significant “victory” for the Tea Party.
The alternative sequence of events is not a very palatable one.
One where mainstream Republicans are unable to shake themselves of their fear of the Tea Party and their supporters. One where the election primaries that are looming and moderate Republicans are forced to move to the extremes to even win the right to run against a Democrat next November. Where the debt/deficit drama continues to play out as America’s credit-worthiness continues to suffer, with obvious consequences for the global economy.
James Carville put it best when he said that the Tea Party plan is to make the American middle class pay for the wars and tax cuts and finance-industry boom/bust of America’s elite. If that is the ground for the 2012 election then people will be able to make up their own minds about the sort of America they want to live in.
I am confident that they will not embrace the Tea Party in that election – that the nation will issue a firm rejection to their narrative and their solutions. Then we can also thank them for giving the country the chance to firmly and finally reject absolutist narrow-mindedness and the myth of trickle-down economics as the sole way to run a nation.