The so-called fiscal cliff that supposedly is forcing the politicians in Washington to get serious about taking care of the sort of business for which they’re there, will be one of the earliest indications we’ll be getting as to whether the 2012 election results have been any kind of lesson for Republicans. Assuming a position of intransigence, clinging hard to an obstructionist path that unabashedly defies the majority will in the country, has pretty much become locked in as formalized GOP script. The blindsiding their party got in the election instantly generated an avalanche of talk about how out of touch the GOP is with a new American landscape reality. It has even prompted some in the party to speak of “compromise” as if it weren’t foul language. But we’ll see about all that.
Look, as we’ve referenced here before, polling on the issue has invariably shown a solid majority of Americans think that asking the wealthiest two percent of the population to pay an increase in taxes is quite fair. Those findings are evidently inconsequential to the geniuses who stake out GOP policy. And even now, fiscal cliff notwithstanding, talking heads for the party spout the line about being opposed to raising taxes on “job creators” – the conniving use of “job creators” presumably being not now as effective as it perhaps once was in disguising what is pure red herring.
With a serious upcoming deadline of midnight Dec. 31, when various tax cuts end and other government initiatives like last year’s debt ceiling legislation kick in (which cumulatively could precipitate a new recession, we’re told), you would think this storyline ominous enough to get lawmakers to open-mindedly confront the doomsday scenario. In spite of some GOP stalwarts making a bit of the right noises, there’s really no indication at this point that the ideological rigidity we’ve come to associate with the band of loonies who got into the House of Representatives in 2010 will change to something even slightly akin to bi-partisanship in Congressional deliberations. A knotty concern in the mix is that it became clear quite early in their romp that Speaker John Boehner, who has himself shown not much of a yen for moving off the ideological dime, can exercise little or no control over the Tea Party House renegades. Which doesn’t bode well for a successful assault on any kind of cliff.
Likewise have there been a few Republicans, in wake of the election, taking tentative steps in the direction of a breakout from the Grover Norquist yoke that has kept them in check these many years. If the election did indeed have the effect of sending Norquist back to the drawing board with his designs on control of all these big men and women, that would have been another substantive by-product of how voters responded in 2012. That Norquist could hold over lawmakers’ heads a bunch of malarkey like a “no tax” pledge or face political extinction authored by him, has been an ugly stain on the GOP that would assuredly appall party titans of a few decades past, like Jacob Javits or Nelson Rockefeller.
Politicians doing a “no tax hike” routine as part of the usual con games that come with the territory of campaigning is one thing, but people being duped into buying this tripe is something else entirely. The lunacy of common or garden folk being sucked into Tea Party rhetoric propounding that taxation by the government is an unnecessary evil, is difficult to fathom. You begin to question the merits of open-ended democracy when folks deemed duly qualified to vote are easy prey to such obvious gimmickry.
The ravages of Hurricane Sandy gave rise to much political comment about when comes the need for action of which only governments are capable. If it took a Sandy, with all its death and destruction, to dramatically impress upon some non-believers how real is the role of government, so be it. Certainly, no killer storm should have been required to make the point. Worse, even post-Sandy we will not have heard the last of space cadet types dedicated to flying the “government is dispensable” nonsense flag, come what may.
So now, the people having steered governmental dysfunction in the face, having come ridiculously close to government shutdowns (echoes of Newt Gingrich and his brigands back in the 90s), having seen the ideological straitjacket some have chosen to wear become evil incarnate as it lays waste to the governing process…the people now must await this unfolding narrative about maturity in tending the people’s business. For his part the president has assertively given an undertaking of going to the public with any hint of tomfoolery that manifests itself on the other side. Only problem with that is the other side’s demonstrated capacity for unbelievable tone deafness.
Which is why although some of us are tuned in to it, there needs to be a lot more general awareness that a mission wasn’t exactly fully accomplished in November 2012. We may be getting ready to see, around this fiscal cliff issue, behavior that boldly highlights where efforts need be concentrated in addressing the unfinished business of 2012, two years hence.