Like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and other fiscal conservatives, we detest the debt deal. It is a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution. By itself, it does not make a dent in our debt problem, it hardly curtails federal government spending, it doesn’t prevent a possible credit downgrade and it could eventually lead to higher taxes. All that Congress really accomplished with this deal was to slow down our nation’s fiscal bloodletting.
Unfortunately, Republicans only control one of the three components necessary to pass federal legislation and large swaths of Americans outside of the Beltway have no idea what a debt ceiling is, let alone what a credit downgrade means. For this reason, freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) was correct when he said: “There isn’t going to be one bill that will fix our deficit and our debt. It’s going to take a series of steps and this is a good start.”
Tea Party Republicans should be commended for adhering to principle and their campaign promises by putting the nation’s out-of-control debt and our government’s irresponsible spending habits front and center on the national stage. Nonetheless, the realities of politics and the legislative process dictated that Republicans had to eventually compromise.
Allowing the federal government to default would have amounted to political suicide for the Republican Party — a default would have undermined confidence in an already fragile global economy and likely would have led to more job losses. The president’s team had already spun this storyline to a receptive media so that Republicans would have shouldered the brunt of the blame had economic calamity ensued. Likewise, independent voters, whose primary concerns are jobs and the economy, would have likely made the GOP pay the price at the ballot box in 2012. Taking control of the Senate would have been a pipe dream for the Republican Party, holding the House would have been extremely difficult and unseating Obama would have been next to impossible.
If we want America to have a sustainable economic recovery, it will require systematic change in how business is done in Washington. That type of change can happen only if the Republican Party, keeping faith with the fiscally conservative impulse of the Tea Party movement, holds the House and takes control of the Senate next year. The battleground states are beginning to sour on President Obama, but there is no guarantee that he will be defeated in 2012. The president’s chief propaganda ministers, David Plouffe and David Axelrod, will see to it that Obama doesn’t go down without a fight.
To be successful at the ballot box in 2012, the GOP must control the national narrative by winning the messaging wars, like it did in 2010. Congressional Republicans must continue to push for fiscal accountability within the federal government by demonstrating that future generations will be harmed if the country doesn’t undertake the heavy lifting now. Simultaneously, Republicans in Congress and in the state capitals must impress upon the electorate (particularly independents, Hispanics and seniors) that tax hikes and arduous regulations are not the solution to our country’s economic woes, because they will only shift economic energy elsewhere in the global economy and hurt domestic job growth. Should the GOP falter in 2012, it will find itself wandering the electoral wilderness, thereby bringing an end to anything positive that was derived from this debt deal.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC, and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.