The political implications of the “fiscal cliff”
The implications of the so-called “fiscal cliff” extend far beyond temporary market fluctuations and fiscal contraction. By securing a favorable deal, President Obama not only secures a deal that economists sanction, he also secures a strong political position for future legislative battles. In his first term, President Obama began most negotiations by making various concessions only to have the Republicans drag legislation further and further to the right, well out of the mainstream of America. It seems that President Obama has learned from his political mistakes, as evidenced by his first proposal which included transferring debt limit responsibilities to the Executive Branch and mild short-term stimulus.
If President Obama signs a deal that extends the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent, it will reinforce the idea that the president can be easily pushed into caving to GOP demands. By remaining steadfast in his dedication to fulfilling this long-running campaign promise, President Obama is forcing the GOP to make a decision. Republicans can allow taxes to go up on all Americans to protect 4 cents on the dollar for two percent of Americans, or they can reasonably extend tax cuts for those making under $250K. Public sentiment is lopsided. A new poll indicates that a mere 27 percent would blame the president if a deal was not reached, whereas more than half would blame Republicans.
At this point, the Republican Party seems more interested in securing its own demise in order to preserve ideological purity than securing its political future by appeasing the public’s desire for compromise. The result of their misplaced priorities has been a public display of division. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) has urged other Republicans to take Obama’s deal, whereas pro-Republican special interest groups have threatened primary challenges, massive ad buys, among other things. If President Obama is able to achieve something close to his initial proposal, which represents an important balance between revenue and spending, he will have successfully tempered the fringe’s influence on the Republican Party giving him an edge in future negotiations. It will also represent a victory for the American people, who largely support President Obama’s proposal.
The Republican Party ignores the will of the people at their own peril. Ignoring the outcome of a decisive election will likely prove disastrous for a party already dealing with the reality of America’s changing demographics.