The Republicans, now led from behind by House Speaker John Boehner, are painting themselves into a tiny corner. Boehner may have secured his job as speaker but he has categorically rejected any hope of a grand bargain, thereby leading his party in a rejection of America's middle class. Unless he can be persuaded by Republican senators and a few dozen of his House colleagues to accept a balanced deal with the president and the Democrats he will severely harm his party by appealing only to the Tea Party.
Leaving the White House after the meeting with the president, Speaker Boehner dug in his heels against the closing of any tax loopholes or raising any revenue. Hasn't he learned anything since the election?
Look at what has happened to the Republicans. Democrats have a 22 point advantage (according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) on who would look out for the middle class, the largest margin in 20 years. The same poll found that 36 percent of the public viewed the Republicans favorably in October of 2012, only 29 percent view them favorably today—a remarkable drop in just four months.
And there are very good reasons why House Republicans, who really are the current face of the party, are tanking. They are completely out of touch with the American people on the critical issues. Putting aside votes on the Violence Against Women Act or relief for Hurricane Sandy or averting the "fiscal cliff" or even gay rights, choice, and immigration, they are digging a huge hole for themselves on economic issues.
Right now, 76 percent of Americans want a balanced approach to cutting the deficit, only 19 percent support the Republican position of "cuts only." By over 2 to 1, voters think the sequester is a bad idea. If the House Republicans and John Boehner continue down their radical path of refusing to negotiate, threatening government shutdowns, and not raising the debt limit, their public standing will continue to erode.
According to a National Journal survey, four-fifths of Americans want to completely exempt Social Security and Medicare from any deficit reduction.
With entitlements making up two-thirds of the budget and growing, it doesn't take Willie Sutton to figure out that's where the money is! In order to get Democrats to take on entitlements and the political heat that would bring, the Republicans need to acknowledge that the wealthy must pay their fair share, that hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners shouldn't be getting more tax breaks. Real tax reform means that we have a fairer and more equitable system. That really is only common sense.
But right now, if Boehner continues to march in lock step with his right flank, there will be no grand bargain, there will be no tax reform, there will be no stabilizing of future budgets. Boehner caved during the last grand bargain negotiations in 2011, according to this week's New Yorker, because Eric Cantor and the Tea Party forced him to pull out of the deal.
Now, he refuses to negotiate, to work across the aisle, to even work with Senate Republicans. This is not the mark of a leader but someone who has been co-opted by the extremists in his party.