Or that showdown could be delayed by a series of maneuvers designed, once again, to buy time and save face. Another game of chicken over the debt ceiling probably won’t take place until sometime early next year, but House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) set off alarms last week by hinting at another round of brinksmanship.
This weekend’s Group of Eight meetings underscore the consequences of governments’ failures to deal effectively with their economic problems in ways that can gain public support. Still, at the start of the general election campaign, there appears to be a disconnect between what everyone knows is coming after the election and what is being done to bring about a better outcome.
Each party looks to the elections as a moment when voters will repudiate the other side and provide a mandate to the winner to implement its agenda. Three wave elections in a row, two won by the Democrats and the third by the Republicans, should be enough to show the limitations of that all-or-nothing thinking. How will the two candidates use the election to build support for real solutions?
Romney raised the debt issue as he campaigned around the country last week, appearing with a debt clock ticking away in the background. Hot metaphors marked an appearance in Iowa as he talked about “a prairie fire of debt” and pledged to lead the country out of “the spending and debt inferno.”
Romney is preaching to the choir in the Republican base: Congressional Republicans, prodded by tea party freshmen in the House, have taken an unyielding no-taxes position in deficit negotiations, and Romney has followed their lead. The former Massachusetts governor also has said he will not consider raising taxes to deal with the deficit. In fact, he would cut them dramatically.
On these issues, his party has defined him more than he has defined his party.
Though he often talks about how he worked with Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature, there is nothing in Romney’s campaign platform to suggest that, as president, he would try to challenge the hard-liners in his party. Given some of the problems he had with very conservative voters during the primaries, it is not surprising that he is sticking to the party line.
Romney has embraced the budget blueprint put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a plan that has yet to win any real popular support. He is on record opposing a purely hypothetical budget deal that was raised by Fox News anchor Bret Baier in a GOP debate last year whose terms would call for $10 in spending cuts for every dollar in new revenue.