Republicans didn’t just wait for big-government Democrats to age and grow incompetent. They developed a winning formula to unite two powerful electoral strangers: high-spirited fundamentalists and less high-spirited materialists with good pensions and business interests. Republican campaigners could rally these groups around a driving anxiety: “These are not normal times.”
Modern Republicans get elected by promising to clean up the indulgences of their less-adult opponents; they draw lines in the sand; most recently, they talk of Greek immorality and imminent financial collapse. This formula has been strikingly successful.
It’s in trouble now, however—not because the Party is short of fine performers but because their alarming argument is running out of gas from the real world.
Americans aren’t chronically fearful people. They don’t husband old traumas like adults in more slow-moving places like France, Russia, and Canada. So, being stirred to sacrifice requires fresh supplies of American bad news—credible signs of danger, of a danger, incidentally, that can be dropped at the feet of the federal government.
Bloomberg News reported quietly last week that Americans back spending-cut delay. That, itself, isn’t significant. That opinion can change with the times. Most people will delay unpleasantness if pollsters given a credible option.
What’s important, however, is that the failing case for severe cuts (a burgeoning deficit) is itself inflated:
“At the same time, the size and trajectory of the U.S. deficit is poorly understood by most Americans, with 62 percent saying it’s getting bigger, 28 percent saying it’s staying about the same this year, and just 6 percent saying it’s shrinking. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 6 that the federal budget deficit is getting smaller, falling to $845 billion this year — the first time in five years that the gap between taxes and spending will be less than $1 trillion.”
In other words, the more Americans, and their business leaders, who acknowledge the recovery in government revenues as well as growing activity in the private sector, the less they’ll go along with extreme emergency measures to stave off an approaching national bankruptcy.
The Republicans will soon have to re-learn how to play politics more calmly. Indeed, if they’d let a retiring President win a couple of affordable fights, they’d be halfway there.
The world will surely give them a dandy crisis in the future. However, there is no virtue, on earth or in heaven, for inventing one now.