How long will the major GOP-aligned interest groups, particularly business groups, stick with the Republican Party, if Republican tax monomania, and intransigence on the debt ceiling, threaten to tank the economy?
Barack Obama, in his interview today with Bloomberg, tried to exploit the business community's apparent discomfort with Republicans when it comes to the debt limit. He noted that Republican efforts to crash the economy every time it is reached is hardly good for business:
Another thing that CEOs have mentioned is making sure that if we do get a deal done now, that we don't have another crisis two or three months from now because of the debt ceiling, what we went through back in 2011. You know, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is hardly an arm of my administration or the Democratic Party, I think said the other day, we can't be going through another debt ceiling crisis like we did in 2011. That has to be dealt with.
Indeed, there really is a question here about the extent to which businesses will follow the GOP down the rabbit hole of another debt limit crisis.
Recall that in the health care debate, Republicans wound up losing several GOP-aligned special interests, including the doctors, because Republicans were far more interested in ideological extremism than in cutting deals to help Republican-aligned interest groups.
Will that happen again in the fiscal cliff negotiations? Note that many business interests are not nearly as interested in the tax-rates-above-all Republican negotiating position as they are in, well, avoiding a recession. It's not as if the business community is going to suddenly turn into loyal Democrats. It's just that the more the Republican Party's positions are dictated by fear of being labeled "RINOs," forcing them to adopt Tea Party positions, the less Republicans leaders will find themselves responsive to other normally GOP-aligned groups.
That's a key question to look at not only in the continuing fiscal cliff talks, but really in every issue, from taxes to immigration, that will show up in Congress this year. Republicans simply can't be a functional party if their politicians only care about possible primary challenges. Before this is all over, the Republican Party may finally have to make a critical choice between the pragmatic concerns of the business community and the fundamentalism of the Tea Party.