The Washington Post’s Dan Balz is one of the country’s finest political reporters and, unlike so many of his colleagues in the MSM, Balz is not a de facto extension of the Democratic Party.
Thus Balz’s assessment of the potential internal troubles facing the GOP in Sunday’s Post should be read very closely by all Republicans and conservatives interested in the direction the party takes after 11/2.
If GOP House Leader Boehner is Speaker Boehner in January, the task will largely fall to him to speak for the party and to organize and execute the legislative expression of the vast surge in support for a serious reduction in the size and scope of government as well as stopping the huge tax hikes scheduled for 1/1/11. Senator McConnell will of course be his partner in this effort, and hopefully a new chair at the RNC –Norm Coleman if we are lucky– will assist in the communication of the vision as will the many talented potential contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
But it will be uniquely John Boehner’s job to general the effort, and John Boehner’s moment. If he can impress upon his House colleagues the absolute need for speed and for firm but civil insistence on the key priorities –huge spending cuts, extending the Bush tax cuts and the suspension of key Obamacare mandates as a prelude to comprehensive repeal and replacement– then he will have done his job even if the Senate and/or the president’s veto frustrates the agenda in whole or part.
The key will be to move expeditiously to pass out of the House a budget, all of the appropriations bills and the tax cut legislation that embodies the agenda. The GOP must be seen to be implementing quickly –in a matter of weeks actually– what the fall campaign ahead is premised on.
If this happens, there will be a mighty collision with the president and his party. That collision cannot be avoided and it should not be postponed. If the country delivers a rebuke to the Democrats in November and a mandate to the Republicans, that statement cannot be frittered away with a long, drawn-out dance around the illusion that there is some middle ground to be found on any of these issues. There should be no waiting for the deficit commission, no “summits” at Blair House or round tables on CNN. Mr. Boehner should take his lieutenants off somewhere in mid-to–late November and come back with the key statutes drafted, especially the budget extending the tax cuts and the appropriations bills embodying the necessary cuts (except for defense), and proceed to pass them in January or February. They will languish in the Senate perhaps, or the Senate’s Democrats facing the public in 2012 may finally listen to the voters and thus send these measures on to the president who will then have to consider whether to yield to the people or to continue his arrogant rejection of the country’s clear majority opinion on these matters.
The key will be for the House GOP to demonstrate the genuine resolve that the electorate is seeking on these three key issues, and not to get sucked into the Beltway schedule and the Beltway culture where everything can wait another week, which becomes another month, which becomes the fall of 2011. It may take that long to resolve the conflicts, but not to lay them out and take the issue to the public. The House must act quickly and without regard for what the Senate or the president will do. The House must deliver what the GOP is promising, and must do so quickly.
That means hard choices on spending, and the predictable MSM-savaging of proposed laws embodying the need for fiscal responsibility and the crucial tax decisions. As the new coalition in Great Britain is discovering, however, there is massive public support for the government to live within its means, even when it means widespread cutbacks and across-the-board sacrifice. There is a growing recognition that real growth requires lower tax rates as well. Elite media and the noisy left will scream every step of the way, but the public will cheer resolve coupled with speed.
My Monday Washington Examiner column assesses the meaning of Saturday’s crowd on the Mall. The bottom line is that there is a groundswell of support for seriousness about the spending and the growth of government, seriousness about the tax burden, and seriousness about taking the people seriously.
That groundswell is also about the need for speed in turning the country from its ruinous course. If John Boehner becomes Speaker Boehner, his greatest possible legacy –a historic one if he earns it– will be as the Speaker who rushed in and forced the issues and never let up on the pressure on President Obama to change fundamentally his priorities and his direction. This speed and this focus will keep the party and the movement unified. But if SOPs take over and the traditional D.C. legislative calender is followed, the stresses Balz writes about will quickly surface with damaging impacts to the GOP and thus to the agenda.
There’s a model for Boehner in the Wilderness Campaign of 1864 waged by then General Grant and the Army of the Potomac against General Lee and the Army of Virginia.
“I intend to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer,” Grant wrote Lincoln even before the campaign began, and he did, never losing contact with Lee, never pausing to reconsider or rest after any particular battle in the long campaign.
That sort of tenacity on the political field is necessary in 2011, and it requires quickly getting to the debate and engaging in the confrontation. The long ballet over Social Security reform in the spring of 2005 demonstrated that the Democrats will not deal with these issues seriously but will demagogue them and refuse to ever get to the business of reform. As with Obamacare they will simply dress up massive spending, regulatory overkill and tax hikes and call it reform. There is no reason to ask them to negotiate until after the House acts.
The GOP has to put its plans out there, pass its proposed budgets and its proposed appropriations, and do so with the full knowledge that Democrats and their kept JournoListas will denounce them every day all day for doing so.
No matter. That is what this election is about. The GOP doesn’t have to win these battles, but it has to fight them, furiously and without pause and without sacrificing the key principles. If they do that, the gains they make on 11/2 will be consolidated and added to in 2012. If they don’t, they will forfeit the rarest of all things in politics –a second chance.