It’s the GOP’s World, We Just Live In It

Ron Brownstein writes about the problems faced by our two major parties:

For Republicans, the key question was whether a congressional caucus rooted in the nation’s most conservative areas could court the broader coalition the party needs to regain the presidency. For President Obama and his fellow Democrats, the issue was whether they could deliver better economic results—or at least formulate an agenda for growth that persuasively contrasted with the GOP’s. Nearly six months after the election, neither side can claim much progress.

His answer to both questions is, basically no. But what he doesn’t say is that both of these questions are firmly in the control of just one of the parties. As near as I can tell, the strategy the GOP’s brain trust came up with after the November election was twofold. First, try to expand its coalition by reining in its tea party excesses and tamping down a bit on its anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-immigrant wing. Second, if that didn’t work—and it was always a long shot—keep the economy in lousy shape so that at least Democrats couldn’t take advantage of their paralysis.

So far, it seems to be working. Strategy A, as expected, is on life support. But Strategy B is coming to the rescue. By ending the payroll tax holiday in January and seeing their sequester handiwork take effect in March, Republicans have kept the economy barely dog paddling along.

Inexplicably, they’ve gotten plenty of help in this project from Democrats, who agreed to the sequester hostage-taking in the first place and never fought very hard in December to keep the payroll tax holiday around for another year or two. But who knows? Maybe Brownstein is wrong. Obama seems to be betting that the American public is more interested in seeing Democrats get tough on the budget deficit than they are in seeing the economy recover. I doubt that, but I suppose anything is possible.