Senior Staff Writer

Friday, President Obama and leading Republicans in Congress met to discuss the Fiscal Cliff. Many things hang in the balance of these negotiations, such as taxes and level of government spending. Once more, America and its politicians confront the scope of government and what its role should be.

The GOP goes into these talks weakened but not dead, despite some of the obituaries you may have read to the contrary. House Republicans claim they retained their majority in the chamber by campaigning on small government. This account directly conflicts with the Senate and Presidential elections, losses which the GOP commonly attributes to subpar candidates.

House Republicans would also have lost their majority with fairer redistricting (more Americans voted for Democrats than Republicans as their representatives); however, with the Senate and Presidency out of reach, however, a sobered party comes to the table now. This may be good news for the American people.

John Boehner has struck a much more conciliatory tone since the election. He suggested revenue increases paired with budget cuts, a position of compromise, though not going so far as to support the marginal tax increase on the wealthy that President Obama insists upon.

The GOP will be more abiding of a tax-rate increase, knowing Obama campaigned successfully and vocally on this particular point. They also know the political cost of going over the Cliff is higher for them than it is for Obama, who could probably more easily achieve his objectives afterwards. If the Bush tax cuts expire, as they are set to if lawmakers fail to arrive at a deal, Obama can simply propose to restore those cuts for people who make less than $250,000.

It may be the deal they arrive at uses arcane tax reform, like the capping of deductions for people above a certain income. This would allow Republicans to save face and claim they did not raise taxes, but rather reformed the tax code. Indeed, even Mitt Romney called for tax reform, which seems to be Republican slang for accounting gimmicks. Accounting has never been more important to American politics, with talks of deductions, caps, rates, and capital gains more prevalent than ever before. A lasting and effective compromise may well rest in these kinds of details.

Though the GOP leadership will compromise now, they still appear unwilling to seriously change as a party. Fiscal conservatism is being abandoned now in the face of the political reality that Republicans in the House, more than anyone, will be blamed if a deal does not go through. But the larger realities — demographics, changing ideas about social rights, nations about the appropriate scope of government — are still being ignored.

Republican commentators are now loudly guffawing at the nomination of Mitt Romney, saying his personality doomed him from the start, as if he could ever have won from the start. They make similar excuses about their series of inexcusable Senate defeats, despite the fact many of the comments that sank the senatorial campaigns are basically reflective of the Republican platform. They lost because their candidates, not their ideas, are bad, so they say.

Despite all the setbacks of this year’s election, the Republican party has not hit rock bottom. During the 1980s, the Democrats got pummeled in election after election. Ronald Reagan was able to paint the Democrats as far too liberal and out of touch with the American people. Democrats responded by nominating a pro-death penalty, pro-welfare reform governor of Arkansas, who reinvented the Democrat brand and revitalized American politics.

Can the GOP produce someone like the triangulating Bill Clinton? Right now, it seems doubtful the GOP would be willing to let a moderate conservative through the primaries, but failure can be a great instructor.

Questions? Email Connor at

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