January 23, 2013

Common Ground?

Not so big.
After the president came out and not-so-subtly bashed Republicans as name-callers rather than solution-oriented problem solvers, irony decided to remove itself from the English language in disgust.  But things still need to get done.  There are a lot of problems to be solved.  But with an ideological chasm so deep Republicans can either capitulate or stand firm, because there appears to be little in the way of common ground - at least as far as moving forward goes.  For example, the president reiterated some environmentalist points in his inaugural speech.  But since the election, the Keystone XL pipeline that had been benched by the president as an issue until after the election, has come back.  So does the president find common ground with conservatives and labor unions or does he break bread with environmentalists?  How do you find common ground when you aren't even always sure where the president stands?

Republicans meanwhile are in a bit of a bind as well.  They are viewed, thanks to an openly hostile press, as the roadblock to any potential recovery.  That means low information voters can be swayed to Obama's camp if Republicans don't cave. But caving to Obama et. al. is a sure fire way to anger conservatives, and the Tea Party faction of the right  If there is any common ground, it seems like it might be the size of a postage stamp.

Consider the lack of room the GOP has to maneuver and still try to get something, anything, done in this session of Congress. Where can the GOP compromise with Democrats in such a way that:

1) It doesn't violate core conservative principles
2) It doesn't look like capitulation to conservatives
3) Does not look like an Obama-only victory or the GOP is knuckling under.
4) It doesn't hurt the country or the GOP long term
5) Gets both the country and conservatives something concrete and worthwhile.

That's not a lot of wiggle room. Based on that where can we find common ground? Defense cuts? Maybe, if they are done smartly in the name of efficiency. NASA cuts? Maybe - if the thrust of the drive is a focus on privatization. Any discretionary spending cuts? Don't hold your breath - if it is done in a way where they need to "pass it to see what's in it"?   Any spending cuts are not really common ground, so don't count on it other than as window dressing for Democrats. Tax reform as a way to increase taxes?  Tax reform and simplification is a win, but again, Democrats want more money, not fewer rules.  The more rules there are in the tax code, the logic goes, the more opportunity for social engineering exists.

Common ground is pretty much gone.  And voters, sick of gridlock, have voted in more of it.  A brilliant move from a stupid electorate.  The real question is not whether there is much in the way of common ground, but whether it is worth the effort to even bother.

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