Home/Daniel Larison/If Republicans “Stand and Fight,” They’ll Suffer a Major Defeat

If Republicans “Stand and Fight,” They’ll Suffer a Major Defeat

As a general rule, no one should take advice from Marc Thiessen, and that applies doubly to his advice to Republicans on budget negotiations:

If Obama refuses to compromise, pass legislation extending current tax rates for all Americans. Let Obama reject it and take us over the “fiscal cliff” — and then be prepared to live under the Clinton tax rates while negotiations on tax reform continue. In the short term, Americans may blame you. You can recover from that. What you will never recover from is surrendering your principles and giving up your brand as the party of low taxes and limited government [bold mine-DL].

This is just step one in Thiessen’s plan for victory, and it’s not a good beginning. The evidence suggests that most Americans will blame the GOP in the event that there is no deal, and it isn’t a close contest. The Republican Party already has a poor favorability rating, and failing to reach a deal will make that worse. When 19% of Republicans and 52% of independents are going to blame Republicans for the lack of an agreement, there is no way that Republicans in Congress can gain political advantage. At this point, they can either limit the damage to themselves, or they can suffer another major political defeat just weeks after their last one. Republicans are still living with the blame their party received for the country’s economic woes four years ago, and they haven’t yet recovered from that. It is absurdly optimistic to expect that the GOP can recover from both that previous damage and other newly-inflicted wounds. If this were simply a case of suffering a minor setback for the sake of some larger gain later on, it might be worth taking a risk, but that isn’t the case here.

Defending Bush-era tax rates at all costs would be harmful enough to the party’s already battered reputation, but refusing to deal would also mark the party as politically incompetent as well as intransigent. One of the party’s many problems is that it trashed its brand as the party of limited government many years ago. Nothing they do now can destroy an image that was defaced long ago. The more important problems for the party are that it has been branded as too incompetent to govern well and far too oblivious to the views of people outside the party. Failing to reach an agreement would exacerbate both of these problems, and that would be ruinous to the prospects for Republican revival and recovery over the longer term.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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