Polls show that the American people want the deficit brought under control. But dig a little deeper by asking a follow-up question about what programs should be cut and you immediately discover that the people have attached some interesting riders to the notion of cutting the deficit.
Just 31% want cuts in education and health care in the Bloomberg poll. And in a Pew survey, only 43% want a freeze in government spending as opposed to 48% who don’t. As is their wont, the people are sending a mixed message: we don’t like Obama’s far left agenda but we also don’t like some of your plans for cutting the budget.
As far as other plans the Republicans might have, the American people reject the idea of “conducting major investigations of the Obama administration” by a 52-42 majority in the Pew poll, while most major polls show at least a large plurality in favor of repealing national health insurance reform.
And the tax cuts? When queried on whether those making more than $250,000 should have their tax cuts extended, 52% said no while 40% agreed.
What this adds up to is a caution light for John Boehner — or whoever is elected speaker. In normal times, the party in power would seek political cover by sharing the risk of offending voters with the opposition, getting them on board early and visibly. But with a third of the GOP caucus imbued with the fervor of the tea party nation to reject compromise and strike a pose for principle, it is doubtful the opportunity will ever arise. At that point, it becomes a blame game and President Obama has a much bigger stage and much louder microphone to make his case that Republicans can’t be trusted running the country because they care more about themselves than ordinary people. In this, the president would not be entirely off base. The people are already suspicious of GOP motives and, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen, the vote yesterday was more against the Democrats than for the Republicans:
Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.
In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn’t win, the other team lost. Heading into 2012, voters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.
That reason will be a better economy spurred by GOP-led action on the budget and taxes. Accomplishing this will depend almost entirely on how willing the new conservative blood in Congress is to put aside the excessive partisanship demonstrated by the “no compromise” crowd and work with all sides to get the economy off the schneid and back to creating the wealth and jobs it has created in the past.