The problem with the American system is that the unpredictable was so predictable. See http://www.pal-item.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012312200018. If charged with amateur gloating, I plead guilty. When one is right so rarely, false modesty seems inappropriate.
So now that the never existing cliff has been avoided, many a pundit will dissect the deal and tell us that not much has changed. We will be told that the deal doesn’t do much to solve our non-existing budget crisis, and that the political class is incompetent, spineless, and …
However the process that brought us to the point where sequestration would not go into effect reveals a marked change in political forces that are at play in Washington. The fall of Grover and the diminished strength of the Tea Partiers mark a healthy change.
Over a year ago I wrote a piece on Grover Norquist and his pledge – https://noconsensushere.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/on-tax-pledges-and-taxing-vows-countering-grover-norquist/. At that time I thought of Grover Norquist as wrong, but principled. But Mr. Norquist has now shown his stance on taxes and the pledge to be nothing more than a crude power play, a bullying tactic, which he wielded for ends which still baffle me. The bully now stands exposed and with it has lost his power. Sure grOVER has now groveled (could not resist that) and claims that the Fiscal Cliff Bill is a tax cut, a line different from what he took slightly more than a month ago . He isn’t the purest ‘no tax increase’ person in Washington. That title possibly belongs to Rand Paul, a darling of the lukewarm, but still brewing Tea Party.
The tea leaves suggest that they may attempt to do to all the Republican senators who voted for the Fiscal Cliff Bill and are up for reelection in 2014, what they did to Lugar and attempted to do to Hatch in 2012 – politically neuter them in the primaries. The Republican senators who voted for the Fiscal Cliff Bill and who are up for re-election in 2014 are Sessions, Chambliss, Roberts, McConnell, Collins, Cochran, Johanns, Inhofe, Graham, Scott, Alexander, Cornyn, Enzi. And I think President Obama and the Democratic Party should commit to support some of them in the primaries.
Why? There must be some way to signal that taking a stance against false orthodoxies and axiomatic party planks deserve to be rewarded. Given the strength of the extreme right to derail a Republican’s political prospects in the primaries, there must be a countervailing force. There are some seats which will be Republican come what may – the Sessions seat in Alabama for example. The only question in such a case is what kind of a Republican will you get – someone who was willing to walk away from orthodoxy when it was important that they do, or someone who has drunk the Kool tea?. The answer seems obvious. In such cases the President and Democrats should help re-elect all those who were willing to take a bold political stance. You need compromisers to compromise.
How? Being nice to an opponent should not come at the cost of the Democrat’s political fortunes. If a seat is up for grabs even with a small probability (e.g., Alexander in Tennessee), it makes sense for the the President and the Democrats to have less than extreme Republicans defeated so that they can face extreme right candidates in the general election. Otherwise the President and the Democrats should do all that they can to make those Republicans that they can do business with win their primary battles.