Over the next couple of years, President Barack Obama wants to raise the national debt to $18.9 trillion or so. House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the congressional Republicans want to raise the national debt to $18.4 trillion or so.
The present leadership of the Republican Party has gone from making the case that government is the problem and the American people are the solution to making the case that Democratic-controlled government is the problem and Republican controlled-government is the solution.
By giving up on making the case that government is the problem and pivoting to “Democrats are the problem,” the Republican Party has failed the American people.
Historically, when political parties lost, their leadership went and hid for an appropriate amount of time under a rock after an acceptance of blame and a resignation. The present Republican leaders in Washington, instead of hiding under a rock, have taken to standing on the rock and demanding conservatives self flagellate. Neither Boehner nor McConnell are visionaries. They are survivors. They survive by recognizing the biggest threat to them and trying to befriend it or neutralize it.
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Right now, both see conservatives as their biggest threat, not Obama. Why? Because while Obama maintains the White House, Boehner and McConnell maintain their positions of power. They exist for power, not for vision.
The visions they articulate are routinely backpedaled. Remember the pledge to nowhere House Republicans concocted in 2010 as a second coming of the “Contract With America”? Within two months of returning to the majority they’d already ditched their pledge faster than a frat boy fleeing a one night stand. Only conservatives wish to hold them accountable for their breach of trust, thus conservatives are the threat.
The very same Republican leadership that paved the way for the rise of the Democrats in 2006 through moral opaqueness on the role of government in the lives of Americans now seek to shut up and shut out the conservatives who continue to loudly point out that the size and scope of the federal leviathan has grown too unwieldy.
More troubling, with the removal of the several of the critics within the party from key committees and a clear message that loud voices of conservatism will not get plumb committee assignments, the incoming freshman class and even the current conservative leaders in the House of Representatives have rolled over.
Let us not kid ourselves. The Republicans intend to strike a last minute deal to cave. They will do so with a too clever by half compromise. Republicans have spent more time out negotiating itself to the left than negotiating with the Democrats.
The compromise is no longer the issue. It will happen. The issue is that the Republican leaders who will be in charge in January are the Republican leaders who were directly complicit in the construction of the fiscal cliff and were directly complicit in getting us already to $16 trillion in national debt. Democrats are not to blame; both parties in Washington are.
Obsequious praise for small government does the Republicans no good when they too are in favor of big government in their actions. And having two leaders as the face of the party -- Boehner and McConnell -- who have both been in Washington since 1986, does no good restoring credibility when these multi-decade residents of the swamp wink and smile that they really do think Washington is the problem.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.