To those who had high hopes that they were finally about to witness federal budget cuts, I’m sorry to say that the revolution is dead.
John Boehner shed tears on election night as he contemplated his rise from humble son of saloonkeeper to Speaker of the House of Representatives. Americans mistook this display as evidence that Boehner had had an epiphany resulting in his casting aside his previous timid political deal making self and adopting the mantle of Tea Party budget cutting crusader. We thought John had finally got it that this election was about cutting wasteful spending instead of crafting deals with the opposition in the name of bipartisanship. Alas, we were sadly mistaken. His tears really were for his sake and not ours.
We heard the figure of $100 billion in cuts bandied about, and while we longed for so much more, we realized that the year was half gone and this was a nice beginning. The $100 billion figure has been dumped overboard with the explanation that only $61 billion in cuts could be found, but that they would do better in the FY12 budget. Now, Boehner’s team is signaling that $33 billion in cuts might be acceptable so we can get FY11 out of the way and really get done to work on FY12. The old bipartisan dealmaker is resurfacing in Boehner, and we can look forward to ever smaller budget cuts to be floated.
Anyone longing for a showdown in the form of a government shutdown is only setting themselves up for disappointment. Boehner was around for Newt’s shutdown in 1995 and still carries the scars of that painful episode. Boehner will avoid a shutdown at all costs because he doesn’t realize that the situation today is vastly different from the one he faced in 1995. The Democrats know this and are counting on it. They haven’t even bothered to come up with a plan other than labeling Republicans as extremist and tying them to the Tea Party. This strategy didn’t work in the election, and it won’t work here, but Boehner will cave for other reasons and Democrats will mistakenly assume it worked. So, we can look forward to hearing the word extremist a lot more.
The FY11 budget battle will get spun as a special case by Republicans who will tirelessly try to explain why nothing could really be achieved without a budget to work from, a looming Continuing Resolution deadline, and ongoing military commitments that made a government shutdown a dicey proposition. Democrats will rightly see this as vindication of their strategy to obstruct and obfuscate as they win the battle and employ this strategy in the FY12 budget battle. We will continue to see individual programs trotted before Congress by Democrats aware that specific programs are easier to defend and specific cuts almost impossible to make. Republicans will argue for broad based cuts, but lose the battle as Democrats play the emotion card with much more skill and practice than Republicans.
At the state level, Republican governors will continue their efforts to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights as union workers with an ingrained sense of entitlement wail and gnash about this assault on blue collar workers. Never mind that they are far removed from actual blue collar workers, but it’s a nice symbolic image. The hope inspired by these Republican governors will be dashed by activist judges blocking their implementation. These judges were infused into the judicial system over the last several decades by liberal administrations as sleeper cells awaiting the day of their activation when those progressive goals no longer achievable at the ballot box would need to be advanced by the courts.
The progressive monster is well entrenched in our political system and will not go quietly into the night. We are witnessing his viciousness on display in Wisconsin and Ohio as he is cornered and fighting for survival. We experience his incivility as he shouts obscenities and threats at elected officials who dare question his legitimacy. We shockingly realize that he can not be reasoned with, that he has no pity, and exists only to satisfy his own needs. In desperation, he reveals the lie behind the slogan, “It’s for the kids,” as he confirms our cynical interpretation of this smarmy rejoinder. Like the monster in Frankenstein, he can’t be lived with and it will take an uprising of the villagers with pitchforks and torches to storm his castle and kill him so that tranquility can be reestablished in the form of balanced budgets.
Revolutions arise out of spontaneity by abstract acts such as a rant by some financial reporter on the floor of the Chicago Exchange. They are fueled in their early stages by successes that inspire passion among the believers of accomplishing lofty goals. They suffer when members become disillusioned by setbacks arising from the realities of what is possible, the inability of flawed leaders to recognize epic opportunities, or the constant grind of opposition. To dream is a great thing, but risks profound disappointment as dreams go unrealized. Without risk, nothing worthwhile is ever achieved. Tea Party revolutionaries should not allow the coming setbacks to dim their enthusiasm. They should recognize that setbacks are inevitable and work through them to realize their goals.