John Boehner has revealed his strategy for winning the next round of fiscal negotiations, and it involves liberals caving and forcing Obama into a bad deal on spending cuts.
This little nugget of insight was buried in the middle of the recent Wall Street Journal story on Boehner, “Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. “I got that in my back pocket,” the speaker says. He is counting on the president’s liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester’s sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is “as much leverage as we’re going to get.”
Boehner is gambling that conservatives are tougher than liberals. The whole House strategy is to convince liberals that Republicans are going to stick to their guns, and happily eat the defense cuts, in order to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The Speaker’s comments were a tacit admission that the Republican strategy of threatening Democrats, the president, and the left is not working anymore. The president has learned to wait out any threat that House Republicans make, because in the end, he knows they will cave. Speaker Boehner needs a new weapon to use against the White House, and he believes that weapon is the left’s inability to stand together.
Since splitting the left is the stated Republican strategy, stories about the president’s desire to cut earned entitlements attributed to anonymous sources should start popping up in the mainstream media over the next month or so. House Republicans tried this exact tactic during the fiscal cliff negotiations, and like clockwork the professional outrage machine on the left jumped in and started doing the GOP’s dirty work for them. (In the case of the fiscal cliff, Obama had floated a thought on Social Security as part of a deal that he knew Republicans would reject. Thus, the president used the left’s outrage machine as political cover in order to appear moderate.)
The problem with Speaker Boehner’s strategy is that it isn’t based in reality. The Republican Party is completely fractured. The divide among congressional Republicans has trickled the whole way down to the base. The traditional behaviors of each party base are currently so reversed that Democrats are deeply united right now. In fact, the left has united on fighting Citizens United, voter ID laws, and changing the filibuster rules. The left is also united on the broad principle of protecting earned entitlements.
Boehner’s talk of Republicans supporting the defense cuts in the sequester was a complete bluff. For months, congressional Republicans have been trying desperately to avoid the military cuts. Speaker Boehner is hoping that the left gets so caught up in their panic over Social Security and Medicare cuts that they don’t see how panicked his own side is about the defense cuts.
The inevitable Republican propaganda about Obama’s support for slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be coming soon through the mainstream media. The people on the left who earn their living by promoting outrage and fear will run with it.
If Democrats and the left can keep their disagreements to the details while agreeing on the overall goal, the fractures within the Republican Party will cause Boehner’s latest half baked strategy to crumble again.