Would tea party accept a Bill Clinton-brokered deal with Obama?
Chastened by Obama’s win, Republicans are taking a hard look at the impact of the tea party wing on the party brand. The real story may be whether that makes the GOP more amenable to a deal.
Following the decisive victory by the man they vowed three-and-a-half years ago to pry out of the White House, the antigovernment tea party movement found itself reassessing its role within a fractured Republican Party that faced broad electoral disappointments on Election Day.Skip to next paragraph
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President Obama’s reelection represents the fifth time in the last six presidential cycles the Republican candidate has failed to win the popular vote. The GOP is now in full soul-searching mode, with the tea party especially facing criticism for its social and fiscal issue-driven co-opting of the Republican national agenda to which all contenders, including Mitt Romney, had to kneel during the primaries.
“In a lot of ways, the tea party movement was repudiated in the election,” says Joshua Dyck, a University of Massachusetts-Lowell political science professor and co-director of the Center for Public Opinion. “Part of the problem is that the tea party has had a hard time figuring out what it’s all about. Is it about Sarah Palin [social] conservatism or is the tea party about budget conservatism?”
Yet tea party activists across the US also awoke Wednesday with the knowledge that their small government agenda still wields significant clout in the House, through which Obama must take any and all plans designed to raise taxes and slash a runaway deficit and mounting national debt.
Indeed, tea party activists – whose agenda has the approval of about a third of Americans – began quickly to sort through the electoral ashes, calibrating new ways to lead the GOP and achieve its chief goal – saving the republic from a looming calamity of fiscal profligacy.
“Defeat does not weaken the tea party,” says Brigitte Nacos, a political scientist at Columbia University who studies the GOP’s tea party splinter coalition. “The real topic is the tea party now, and it’s not only Republicans that have to deal with it, but also the president has to now deal with it.”
Yet given the country’s vote Tuesday, at least one tea party blogger suggested that studied compromise may have to replace the line-in-the-sand absolutism that left last year’s negotiations on the debt ceiling in bitter shambles and helped turn American opinion against the movement.
One suggestion floated by tea party members to break the fiscal gridlock would be to craft a spending deal similar to that struck by President Bill Clinton in 1997 – raising marginal tax rates across the board while slashing deficit spending. The tack, experts say, might allow a term-limited Obama to strike a substantial and meaningful across-the-aisle legislative deal to avoid potentially plunging the US into another recession.