Thursday 28 July 2011

US debt crisis a danger for Republicans

Immediately after the US mid-term elections I posted here why I thought the Republican Party would make it very likely President Obama would win a second term. Now to the present - Obama is not popular, his ratings continue to slide with some commentators in the Washington beltway suggesting a liberal candidate may challenge him for the Democrat nomination. The US economy is close to meltdown, a default is simply unthinkable and would be a major catastrophe for the global financial system, impacting on every one of us.

So we get to the rub, America is not going to default as its solvency is not being questioned unlike that of Greece, Italy, Ireland or Spain. However, a new course for tax and spending does need to be set and quickly. This is a politically defining moment of possibly great significance: America is now a low tax economy with a high (and rising) spending culture. One or the other has to give, but which one is it going to be?  

This is where the battle-line has been drawn with, on one side, the Republicans calling for spending cuts while Democrats insist the President raises taxes. A solution has to be found with the President ultimately the one who is responsible for whatever course of action is taken, so surely all the risk rests with the White House?

Well, no. The Republican Party, despite its strong showing in November last year, is strongly influenced by Tea Party activists who are almost fundamentalist in their views on taxation. This in turn sees Republican politicians (primarily but not exclusively) fall back on over-blown rhetoric and grandiose statements. In media interviews they fail to connect to 'Main Street USA'. A time of crisis should see leaders acting calmly, working through solutions, acting in public service not self-interest. This is what American voters are looking for over the coming hours and are far more likely to see from President Obama than House Republicans.  

There are opportunities in this crisis for the Republican Party ahead of next year's presidential election, but the over-riding danger is that, in trying to undermine the President rather than build consensus, they demonstrate to the electorate that they are putting tactical political positioning ahead of the American Dream. Washington's image is sullied to such a degree that, if this did happen, Obama could be looking at an undeserved landslide in 2012.


  1. The Tea Party are doing precisely what they were elected to do - I realise this is a difficult concept to grasp here in the UK where politicians routinely promise XYZ and then backtrack the second they are elected. It is up to the Democrats and Republicans to respect the Tea Party element and resolve the crisis. It is up to the Tea Party to push as far as they realistically can.

  2. To a certain extent I agree - it is certainly good to have principles in politics but pragmatism in times of crisis can also be useful too.


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