The new political position of the Republican Party is indeed challenging. On the Fiscal Cliff, they want to obstruct without appearing obstructionist. They want to fight for principle, but they are hamstrung (to say the least) by just having lost the election battle over just that issue.
As I wrote recently, “The people have spoken. They want the rich to be taxed. Some sections of the electorate would like to see them killed, cooked, and fed to the poor as well. The GOP may be right that increasing taxes in the upper brackets will kill investment and growth. But this battle is, for the moment, lost. The GOP should stop fighting it.”
In that context, I referred to the Godfather: After the Great Council meeting at which the Don has lost the political battle, the Don and his consigliere discuss the new arrangements, and the Don says on one point “mention, don’t insist.” Later, his son Michael asks the Don “Won’t they see that as a sign of weakness?” The Don responds “It is a sign of weakness.”
That must be the guiding strategy for the Republicans now. Accept the fact that you have been beaten on this point. Mention once again that you believe higher taxes will stifle investment and kill growth; but don’t insist. Then, accept whatever tax rate demand the Democrats put on the table, without changing a single word or number. Boehner should announce “We think it is a bad idea, and that it will hurt the economy. But if the President and Senate insist, we will not obstruct their path.” We mention, but do not insist.
The GOP has no bargaining leverage here, since they will be blamed for any failure. And that, of course, removes all political motivation for the Democrats to concede on ANYTHING.
Accepting the Democrats current offer will make it clear that the resulting economy will be owned by the Democrats.
The risks are, of course, enormous. The GOP base will be outraged, Tea Partiers will feel betrayed.
And even scarier is the risk that the Republicans may be proven wrong; higher taxes might usher in (or at least coexist with) a new boom. If so, that would be embarrassing.
But the nation cannot be saved from itself by a minority party, even with control one House. Especially when the ruling party is unconcerned about taking the country over any number of cliffs, because they believe their exalted leader can defy gravity.
The new GOP leaders will be those who can explain this reality. Yet another Obama recession would be the best demonstration.
This may seem too bold to consider. But honestly, Republicans: Do you have a beer idea?