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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

They picked the wrong guy --- and what comes next

by digby

I'm sure there is a lot of soul-searching and rending of garments in Republican circles this morning, asking "how could this have happened?" Obviously, there are a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that they have been acting like barbarians for the past four years and all the non-tea drinking normal people finally put their collective foot down. Being the party of racists, sexists  and greedy plutocrats in a country with a non-white, female, middle and working class majority may not be the smartest electoral strategy.

But there was one other important factor that I honestly believe cannot be overstated. This excerpt from the American Conservative on how to explain the loss to your right wing friends makes it clear:
You didn’t like Romney that much either. So are you really surprised? The entire Republican primary was a search for a “Not-Romney” candidate. In fact, you probably once contemplated voting for Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, or Rick Santorum precisely because Romney was a flip-flopper who invented Obamacare in Massachusetts. Just a year ago, my dear conservative friend, you were likely very much against the idea of Romney being your nominee. So how can you be surprised that other Americans never warmed to him as a choice for president?
They picked the single worst candidate they could have chosen: a man who exemplifies the word "boss." The bad kind. As much as people rail against their taxes and the abstract idea of deficits and big government, in an economy like this many working people face a very real, immediate form of authoritarianism every single day when they go to work. And Mitt is the poster boy for the misery that a buyer's employment market brings to the average worker. The Obama campaign and its surrogates understood that and defined Romney early on as the Man From Bain. It was very, very smart.

And the rank and file of the Party --- people who also didn't much care for Mitt --- are laying the blame directly at the feet of  the party establishment:
The Tea Party Patriots declared war on the Republican establishment after moderate establishment Republican Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, criticized the Republican Party for hand-picking a Beltway elite candidate who did not campaign forcefully on America's founding principles and said the "presidential loss is unequivocally on them."

“For those of us who believe that America, as founded, is the greatest country in the history of the world – a ‘Shining city upon a hill’ – we wanted someone who would fight for us,” Martin said. “We wanted a fighter like Ronald Reagan who boldly championed America’s founding principles, who inspired millions of independents and ‘Reagan Democrats’ to join us, and who fought his leftist opponents on the idea that America, as founded, was a ‘Shining city upon a hill.’

Instead, Martin lamented, "what we got was a weak moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment wing of the Republican Party."
“While it might take longer to restore America’s founding principles with President Obama back in office, we are not going away," Martin said. "With the catastrophic loss of the Republican elite’s hand-picked candidate – the tea party is the last best hope America has to restore America’s founding principles."

Martin said the Tea Party's "work begins again today" and "we will turn our attention back to Congress, to fight the battles that lie ahead including balancing the budget, repealing Obamacare, cutting the debt, holding the line on the debt ceiling, and the many other issues that will arise to threaten America.”
In fact, they see this election as a win for their agenda:
If the 2010 Republican sweep of the House signaled the rise of the Tea Party, then the 2012 election cemented the movement’s momentum despite several key losses, said scholars and Tea Party leaders.

Tea Party movement-backed candidates lost to Democrats in Indiana and Missouri, among other states, undermining Republican chances of seizing control of the Senate. But the Tea Party’s mantra of uncompromising fiscal conservatism and limited government will echo beyond this election cycle, continuing to threaten the political careers of Republicans who dare stray from the agenda or reach across the aisle, experts say.

“Some Democrats say the Tea Party is dead. That’s all baloney,” said Brigitte Nacos, a political science professor at Columbia University whose research focuses on the four-year-old movement. “The fact of the matter is when you look at the basic agenda of the Republican ticket, it’s pretty much what the Tea Party likes.”

The Tea Party has stamped its impact on the entire Republican ticket from House and Senate races up to the presidency, prompting once-moderate Mitt Romney to bend so far to the right during the primaries that he vowed to repeal the federal version of the very health care law he championed as governor of Massachusetts.

The entire presidential debate was set by the Tea Party, said Mark Meckler, cofounder of Tea Party Patriots.

“Literally, there is no alternative,” Meckler said. “President Obama was forced in the debates to call himself the president of reining in big government. That was unthinkable four years ago. The entire nature of the debate in the United States has changed because of the Tea Party movement.”
There's some truth in that, although President Obama was always in favor of deficit reduction, so they may be overinterpreting their influence. What's more immediately important is this, from Drudgico:
A clarifying election this was not. Instead, it’s the beginning of a stare-down that will almost certainly last months.

Washington is still sharply split along the same lines as it was before Tuesday — and both sides say the victories they cinched bolster their negotiating position.
For Republicans – led by Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – that means a temporary extension of the Bush-era tax rates for all income levels, including the wealthy. In an interview with POLITICO this week, Boehner said if Obama and House Republicans were left in power, they would have “as much of a mandate as [Obama] will…to not raise taxes.”

At the Republican National Committee’s party Tuesday night, Boehner said the takeaway from the House results is clear.

“The American people want solutions — and tonight, they’ve responded by renewing our majority,” Boehner said. “With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates. What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burden on small businesses, bring jobs home, and let our economy grow. We stand ready to work with any willing partner — Republican, Democrat, or otherwise — who shares a commitment to getting these things done.”
I think it's interesting that he specifically said tax rates, don't you? Usually it's just "taxes" spat out as if they are discussing a barbaric taboo. I continue to wonder what the deal makers behind the scene have been working on. I suspect we'll see some action on that as early as this week. Here's what the Washington Post says about it this morning:
For weeks, Republican tax aides have been mulling ideas for a potential deal that would keep the top tax rate at 35 percent, as Republicans prefer, while enacting new provisions to extract about $55 billion next year from households earning more than $250,000 a year, meeting Obama’s goal to raise taxes on top earners.

But any such deal, they say, would hinge on Obama’s willingness to rein in the cost of federal entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of future borrowing. Obama’s most recent budget request proposed only modest trims to federal health-care programs, totaling about $360 billion, and no changes to Social Security.

Obama went further in 2011 budget negotiations with Boehner, offering to raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 and to apply a less-generous measure of inflation to Social Security benefits. It is not clear that Republicans — who have been demanding a fundamental restructuring of Medicare — would view Obama’s 2011 offer as sufficient inducement to raise taxes.

Meanwhile, many liberal Democrats are vehemently opposed to any reductions in retirement benefits, though others acknowledge that a trade will have to be made.

The question, said former White House economist Jared Bernstein, is what Democrats would be willing to give Republicans in return for prying them away from the influence of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has maintained firm discipline among GOP lawmakers.

“I’m sure they’re going to ask for something big,” said Bernstein, now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “I think Republicans would value something on Social Security as a real trophy.”
Well, you'd think so. But it doesn't sound as if the Tea Partiers have wised up quite yet.