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After The Deal Now Done.

Friday, December 17, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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My Townhall.com column is about the GOP divide that has been revealed in the course of the debate over the tax deal now making its way to the president’s desk.

The divide is reflected in the splintering of the potential GOP presidential candidates over the deal, which Rich Lowry has been keeping tabs on.

The very good news is that the fear of a few Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2012 kept the weakest links in the Senate GOP from snapping and passing the Omnibus, which would have been a second occasion for massive Tea Party anger at the GOP which might have hardened into a rejectionist view of the D.C. GOP. If Reid had passed the Omnibus with Republican votes, the political disaster would have been immense and its long term impacts difficult to calculate.

The defeat of the Omnibus coupled with the significant Republican opposition to the tax deal provides the GOP with an opening to keep its ties to the new activists in place and to build on them. Indeed as a result of the intra-party struggle now over, it is very unlikely that anything approach apostasy on spending will appear out of the 112th Congress. The criticism leveled at the tax deal from the right and voiced by many opinion leaders, widely respected representatives and senators, and of course potential presidential candidates Palin, Pence, Romney and Santorum also means that the GOP has a hedge against the real possibility that Stimulus II doesn’t push unemployment down.

The new GOP is like a kid who got a speeding ticket on his first night alone behind the wheel as he rushed to get home. The Tea Party is going to forgive, but they aren’t going to forget, and a second defection from spending discipline –a second “deal”– will be an unmitigated catastrophe. The Congressional GOP needs to stand now and fight on every issue and every bill.

Deal I, then, might be the inoculation the party needed against the temptation to do Deal II when the continuing resolution runs out, whenever it runs out.

Democrats by contrast revealed their inner printing press with both the Deal I and the failed Omnibus. They are branded as wildly profligate beyond any campaign consultant’s dream, and with Pelosi and Reid still conducting the band, voters in 2012 will know that any return to power will mean another paroxysm of spending greater and even more destructive than that which has marked the four years of unified Democratic control of the Congress.

It will take a while to compile the numbers, but the damage done by these four years reckless, indeed, wild spending by the Democrats of money the country didn’t have on special interests unconnected to economic growth or national defense has brought the country to the brink of a shattering fiscal stroke, one far worse than the panic of 2008.

House Republicans have to push sanity and solvency every day of 2011 and 2012. They have to get Defense and Homeland Security funded via well-crafted appropriations bills and out of harm’s way for when the inevitable showdown with the Senate and the president comes and a shutdown of most of the government looms.

The new RNC chairman as well as every Republican running in 2012 for Congress or the presidency has to get out from behind the Beltway’s virtual walls and genuinely listen to the voters. The electeds misjudged the electors these past two weeks, again. Only the well-placed fear of the Senate Democrats on the ballot in 2012 saved the GOP from a Republican earmark-riddled Omnibus that would have sunk their credibility beyond repair even though the Republican senators had come out against their own earmarks. MSM delivered three days of continuous stories about GOP pork even after it became clear that the GOP opposed the bill. That is the dynamic that will follow any spending measure now. The new activists expect Democrats to be profligate but they also expect the GOP to live up to their promises of discipline.

The change in the country’s mood is real and it will last through the next two years. Republicans need to bookmark TeaPartyPatriots.org and pick up the phone and call as many of its representatives around the country that they can find. And they need to be on conservative media answering questions, not ducking it and them.

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