Did Republicans Win The Battle But Lose The War?
That headline reflects the general thrust of Bill Schneider’s takeaway from the budget battle. As he wrote at Politico:
“Here’s the bottom line of the Budget Showdown of 2011, Part I: Republicans got more. But they paid a heavier price.”
Central to his thesis is that Republicans, in gaining more spending cuts than Democrats wanted to give, exposed the extent to which they are controlled by their extreme constituencies, the religious right and the Tea Party movement. The correlary to this, according to Schneider, is that President Obama established himself as the moderate and rational adult in the room. He neither caved in to the demands of the right to include socially conservative riders, the darlings of the religious right, nor did he allow the liberal wing of his own party to prevent a deal from being reached. In other words, he gave some, but not all, on the overall budget issues, while standing his ground against extremist proposals attached to the budget by Republicans.
Schneider believes that one of Obama’s objectives was to win back independents. Their support for Democrats has dropped 14 points since 2008. Boehner on the other hand had to concern himself with the 241 Republicans in the House, delivering budget cuts while trying to appease the further right elements of the party.
In context, the budget cuts, being hailed by both sides as the largest cuts in “real dollars” in the history of the Republic, are drop-in-the-bucket stuff as a percentage of overall spending and debt. Viewed in that light, it is fair to wonder what price has been paid with voters, especially those independent voters who focus on wanting government to work rather than the ideological battles that dominate the thinking of so many elected officials, pundits and political junkies.