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The Fiscal Cliff Losers: Conservatives, the Tea Party, and the GOP

On Nov. 7, we knew who the president was going to be. We were fully aware that we were going to get four more years of Democrat President Barack Obama. And, we also knew that we held a majority in the House but failed to gain a majority in the Senate. The political landscape was clear. What we would be able to accomplish should have been, as well.

Instead, the Republican Party — or at least the conservatives and Tea Party members of Congress — decided to fight for something that we had no mathematical way of winning. We have control of 1/2 of 1/3 of the federal government. That doesn’t bode very well for the opportunity to enact our conservative policies, now does it? “Math is hard,” and apparently the conservatives have forgotten all about it the last two months. Sure, Obama also doesn’t control all of the government, but he would have accomplished what he wanted had we gone over the fiscal cliff, leaving him in a win-win situation.

For all of our fighting, what have we accomplished? According to the latest reports, we have accomplished the whopping increase of $200,000 in the cap on which someone’s taxes will not increase. Rather than the $250,000 cap Obama wanted, the cap will reportedly be $450,000. Why am I not doing my victory dance in the end zone? Probably because that meager increase also means that we will reportedly have zero in spending cuts — yes, the president so concerned with the deficit can’t seem to figure out how to cut it at all.

So again, for all of our fighting, what have we accomplished? The blame. That is what we have accomplished over the last two months — the ability to be blamed for anything bad that happens as a result of Obama not getting the plan he wanted and ran on for the last year. This is not Obama’s economy yet, even though conservatives like to say it is. If it were, he would not have won reelection and Rasmussen would not have his approval rating at 57 percent today (and please, don’t tell me that the poll is wrong). By conservatives in Congress not accepting the fact that they do not have the voting power to control the agenda they have instead lined themselves up to be faulted for anything that happens.

Imagine if the conservatives and Republicans in Congress had said on Nov. 7 that Obama would receive his plan that he had campaigned on for the last year — taxes going up for those over $250,000, a stimulus plan, some spending cuts. Then, Obama would 100 percent, without question and without the ability to argue otherwise, own the economy and all ramifications of it. The Republicans could not be “obstructionist” or “unwilling to compromise” or otherwise able to be blamed. Obama would, from that point forward, own the economy, the agenda, and the results of it. I could have written the press release, and it would have gone something like this:

From the Office of Speaker John Boehnor

Nov. 7, 2012

Yesterday, we learned that President Barack Obama was elected for four more years. As he ran on his budget plan during the campaign and won reelection, in part, due to his proposals, the Republicans in Congress are prepared to pass his budget plan should he present a bill to Congress that mirrors the plan he spoke of during the campaign. We will pass his budget plan. However, we do so with the understanding that this is Obama’s plan, and Obama’s responsibility. If the American people support what he said he was going to do, then we shall give that to the American people — both the plan, and the results of that plan. The Republican Party and the Republican leaders in Congress accept no responsibility for the plan’s failures (or successes), and we shall allow this president’s plan to pass as presented.

Oh my … can you imagine what would have happened then? If such a press release had been issued? The Democrat playbook would have to be shredded and burnt, and they would have to figure out someone else to blame when their socialist policies failed.

If we believe in our conservative principles, then we must believe that Obama’s budget plan would have failed in its entirety to grow the economy, spur job growth, cut the deficit and get us back on the right track. Rather, Obama’s budget plan would have been a dismal failure, and only the Democrats and President Obama would be to blame. What would they say, “oh, it’s the Republicans fault for not negotiating us away from our own plan”?

Some may say that conservatives in Congress would have a primary opponent if they voted for the plan. Speaker John Boehner is the Speaker and has a team of people, including those to “whip” the vote, so that he may see where they stand before a vote is taken on the floor. He could figure out which Representatives could vote “no,” and receive a pass from leadership so they would not have a primary. This is done every day — it’s called governing. And, politics has to play in to governing. We have to have some logic behind what we do, and some political understanding of how our actions — for or against something — will help or hurt us in the future, and that includes considering primaries. I am confident that Boehner would have the skill to obtain the votes he would need, especially given that he would undoubtedly have all of the Democrat votes. Conservatives, numbering around 50 in total, could have voted “no” and not risked a primary.

Instead, we have spent the last two months fighting so that we could ultimately take the blame, and for what? A measly $200,000. That’s our victory. Will that help us to win the Senate in 2014? Will that help us to win the presidency in 2016? Of course not.

And now, if whatever compromise we agree to doesn’t work, Obama will say:

This isn’t working because I had to compromise. If I had gotten what I wanted to begin with — the plan I ran on that the American people supported — we wouldn’t still be in this mess. This is the Republicans’ fault for forcing us to move so far to the right on these issues, rather than going with a balanced plan — my original plan.

So you see, either way, Republicans, conservatives and the Tea Party lose because of the manner in which we have handled this. This has been a win-win for Obama since the day we decided to fight, knowing full well that we could not shape the outcome.

The Tea Party conservatives have to learn how to fight with political pragmatism, or we will remain in a position where we lack the power to enact our policies. Until the art of street fighting is learned amongst conservatives, we will continue to be bloodied in the streets with nothing to show for it.

Sara Marie Brenner is the Creator and Editor of The Brenner Brief, Executive Director of PolitiGal Network, contributor to Human Events and Yahoo, and a City Councilwoman in Powell, Ohio.

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