The “Game” Continues
January 19, 2013
Below is a link to an article in the Washington Post by Chris Cillizza
analyzing the Republicans’ decision to allow an increase in the debt ceiling for three months. According to Cillizza, this is “an interesting — and smart — gambit by House Republicans who have done very little interesting or smart in terms of political strategy of late.” It will allow them to confront the Senate and Harry Reid and not Obama and it allows them time to, well, that is not exactly clear. So what the headline portrays as a “cave in” is really smart strategy on the part of Republicans.
I believe in a sense Cillizza is correct, this is smart strategy by the Republicans. But the question is, by which Republicans? For Boehner or for “a significant group within the House GOP who prize moral victories over actual victories?” Cillizza distinguishes these two groups but does not ask the question, cui bono?
Although 3 months is a long time in the political world, it is difficult to see how the alignment of forces will change in a way that will increase the Republicans’ power, vis-à-vis the president or even the Senate. And as Cillizza notes, given that the economy seems to be improving – as all knew it would after the election – the Republican strategy, as a strategy to be used against Obama, could backfire or not accomplish anything at all. As the economy improves, does the argument for the drastic cuts in spending required if no agreement is reached become more or less powerful? It seems to me the correct answer is “less.”
So how is this smart strategy? Well, it is smart from Boehner’s point of view, as this article inadvertently suggests, because it puts his opponents in his own party on the defensive, as people who “prize moral victories over actual victories.” Cillizza does not say what is in this context an “actual victory” but I am guessing that it would be some kind of tepid, status quo preserving “deal” with Obama on spending cuts. And, as readers will recognize, it seems to me that the game being played is “How Do We Preserve the Status Quo While Pretending Not To.” Not surprisingly, the prevailing power brokers in D.C. are governing to preserve their power rather than using it for the benefit of the nation. The Republican strategy is smart when looked at in this way.