The post-election narrative that the media seems to have settled on is that Obama won, so the Republicans should just go along. Given the narrow margin, they have avoided using the “mandate” word, but they still want to treat the election as if it were a mandate. None of this is surprising.
But the Republicans members of Congress should remember two important things about this election as they move forward:
First, and most important, they were elected, too. Every incoming Republican House member won his/her seat, and should govern in Washington in a way consistent with he/she campaigned. In each district, the voters had an option of choosing a Democrat who would go along with the President’s agenda. Don’t disrespect the people who just voted for you.
Second, President Obama just won an election where his only strategy was to slime his opponent at every opportunity. The only thing Obama could ever offer as a plan was raising taxes on the rich, even though returning to Clinton-era taxes on the rich is only a drop in the revenue bucket. Yes, this would be an anti-growth strategy in the long-run, but only modestly so (there are far more important pro-growth policies that they should concentrate on).
So, why not just let the taxes on the rich go up as Obama wants? Then in a few months when the debt ceiling debate happens, the Republicans have a particularly strong hand. They can say, “Gee, Mr. President, we implemented your plan. Are you ready to level with the American people now how little consequence those tax increases on the rich have for our fiscal future?”
If they oppose the popular tax increases on the rich, they just look like obstructionists. But giving the President what he wants in the short run reveals his rhetoric as a total sham and gives them a much stronger hand in dealing with the real problem—entitlement reform.
So, can House Republicans be true to the voters who elected them and adopt the strategy I’ve outlined? I think so. I think what the voters who voted for those Congressmen wanted was someone who would fight to reign in government. Taxing people who can afford it a little more is a small price to pay for the larger reward of focusing attention on what matters most.