Thursday, December 13, 2012

What should the Republican Party stand for? The fiscal cliff, no matter the result, was an instant opportunity to elevate the party's basic beliefs.

Republicans are failing to define their party's purpose during the fiscal-cliff talks. - Wall St. Journal

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have worked hard to keep their thumbs stuck in the dam of rising tax rates. Still, the fiscal cliff is looking more each day like an inside-the-Beltway CYA operation. Does anyone in the country beyond the halls of Congress and media specialists have any idea what these people are doing?

The Republicans' rote rationale for this sorry state is four words: We have no leverage. We lost the presidential vote. We only control the House. By law, the Bush tax rates will rise for everyone Jan. 1. The default strategy is: Survive. Give Barack Obama some version of the soak-the-rich revenue-raising he ran on, get past the cliff and regroup in 2013. Not a very happy New Year, but that's the best we can get.

This sad argument is not ridiculous.

Only a newborn babe in the Washington woods would think the congressional Republicans' leverage with the president is much more than zero. It'd be nice to think this is all a grim fairy tale and that come New Year's Eve, Prince John of Cincinnati will turn dross into gold. No, Virginia. Republicans lost the election.

But does that mean Republicans have to help Barack Obama dismantle their party by letting its most basic conservative principles disappear into the Beltway's smoke and mirrors?