The Fiscal Cliff Losers: Conservatives, the Tea Party, and the GOP

On Nov. 7, we knew who the president was going to be. We were fully aware that we were going to get four more years of Democrat President Barack Obama. And, we also knew that we held a majority in the House but failed to gain a majority in the Senate. The political landscape was clear. What we would be able to accomplish should have been, as well.

Sara Marie Brenner

Sara Marie Brenner is Creator & Editor of The Brenner Brief, and host of “The Brenner Brief” talk show. Twitter: @saramarietweets

Instead, the Republican Party — or at least the conservatives and Tea Party members of Congress — decided to fight for something that we had no mathematical way of winning. We have control of 1/2 of 1/3 of the federal government. That doesn’t bode very well for the opportunity to enact our conservative policies, now does it? “Math is hard,” and apparently the conservatives have forgotten all about it the last two months. Sure, Obama also doesn’t control all of the government, but he would have accomplished what he wanted had we gone over the fiscal cliff, leaving him in a win-win situation.

For all of our fighting, what have we accomplished? According to the latest reports, we have accomplished the whopping increase of $200,000 in the cap on which someone’s taxes will not increase. Rather than the $250,000 cap Obama wanted, the cap will reportedly be $450,000. Why am I not doing my victory dance in the end zone? Probably because that meager increase also means that we will reportedly have zero in spending cuts — yes, the president so concerned with the deficit can’t seem to figure out how to cut it at all.

So again, for all of our fighting, what have we accomplished? The blame. That is what we have accomplished over the last two months — the ability to be blamed for anything bad that happens as a result of Obama not getting the plan he wanted and ran on for the last year. This is not Obama’s economy yet, even though conservatives like to say it is. If it were, he would not have won reelection and Rasmussen would not have his approval rating at 57 percent today (and please, don’t tell me that the poll is wrong). By conservatives in Congress not accepting the fact that they do not have the voting power to control the agenda they have instead lined themselves up to be faulted for anything that happens.

Imagine if the conservatives and Republicans in Congress had said on Nov. 7 that Obama would receive his plan that he had campaigned on for the last year — taxes going up for those over $250,000, a stimulus plan, some spending cuts. Then, Obama would 100 percent, without question and without the ability to argue otherwise, own the economy and all ramifications of it. The Republicans could not be “obstructionist” or “unwilling to compromise” or otherwise able to be blamed. Obama would, from that point forward, own the economy, the agenda, and the results of it. I could have written the press release, and it would have gone something like this:

From the Office of Speaker John Boehnor

Nov. 7, 2012

Yesterday, we learned that President Barack Obama was elected for four more years. As he ran on his budget plan during the campaign and won reelection, in part, due to his proposals, the Republicans in Congress are prepared to pass his budget plan should he present a bill to Congress that mirrors the plan he spoke of during the campaign. We will pass his budget plan. However, we do so with the understanding that this is Obama’s plan, and Obama’s responsibility. If the American people support what he said he was going to do, then we shall give that to the American people — both the plan, and the results of that plan. The Republican Party and the Republican leaders in Congress accept no responsibility for the plan’s failures (or successes), and we shall allow this president’s plan to pass as presented.

Oh my … can you imagine what would have happened then? If such a press release had been issued? The Democrat playbook would have to be shredded and burnt, and they would have to figure out someone else to blame when their socialist policies failed.

If we believe in our conservative principles, then we must believe that Obama’s budget plan would have failed in its entirety to grow the economy, spur job growth, cut the deficit and get us back on the right track. Rather, Obama’s budget plan would have been a dismal failure, and only the Democrats and President Obama would be to blame. What would they say, “oh, it’s the Republicans fault for not negotiating us away from our own plan”?

Some may say that conservatives in Congress would have a primary opponent if they voted for the plan. Speaker John Boehner is the Speaker and has a team of people, including those to “whip” the vote, so that he may see where they stand before a vote is taken on the floor. He could figure out which Representatives could vote “no,” and receive a pass from leadership so they would not have a primary. This is done every day — it’s called governing. And, politics has to play in to governing. We have to have some logic behind what we do, and some political understanding of how our actions — for or against something — will help or hurt us in the future, and that includes considering primaries. I am confident that Boehner would have the skill to obtain the votes he would need, especially given that he would undoubtedly have all of the Democrat votes. Conservatives, numbering around 50 in total, could have voted “no” and not risked a primary.

Instead, we have spent the last two months fighting so that we could ultimately take the blame, and for what? A measly $200,000. That’s our victory. Will that help us to win the Senate in 2014? Will that help us to win the presidency in 2016? Of course not.

And now, if whatever compromise we agree to doesn’t work, Obama will say:

This isn’t working because I had to compromise. If I had gotten what I wanted to begin with — the plan I ran on that the American people supported — we wouldn’t still be in this mess. This is the Republicans’ fault for forcing us to move so far to the right on these issues, rather than going with a balanced plan — my original plan.

So you see, either way, Republicans, conservatives and the Tea Party lose because of the manner in which we have handled this. This has been a win-win for Obama since the day we decided to fight, knowing full well that we could not shape the outcome.

The Tea Party conservatives have to learn how to fight with political pragmatism, or we will remain in a position where we lack the power to enact our policies. Until the art of street fighting is learned amongst conservatives, we will continue to be bloodied in the streets with nothing to show for it.


  1. Sara – how can you call yourself a Conservative and write something like this? You are *way* off-base in your attacks. I share and appreciate your frustration with our current federal government, but you need to do some better analysis. Clearly, the entire fiscal debate has been mishandled NOT by Conservatives, who are clearly in the minority, but by Republican “leadership” in Congress. Your essay is breathtaking in its misplaced attacks on people who hold the values of the Tea Party and fiscal restraint near and dear.

    Boehner ham-handed the negotiations from day one Obama was re-elected. He gave away position after position and backed himself into a corner by the second week of November. He drove the entire train into the gulch when he declared on December 5th that Americans should feel good about the Republican plan because it was going to “tax the rich”. Excuse me?! Who gave Mr. Crybaby the green light to throw away decades of work by Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan? It was this type of talk that kept the Republican base voters at home in November. The American Person is only going to eat so many excrement sandwiches before he/she pushes away from the table.

    I find it unfathomable that anyone would seriously think it was OK to take our toys and go home, just because we lost the Presidential election. And yet, that is *exactly* what you, and Boehner, propose. Republicans dominated the gubernatorial elections, and hold a 60% majority of the states. We also own the House. We lost the Senate because the RINOs took out several Conservative candidates, or flat-out refused to support them following the “take our toys” doctrine.

    Math *is* hard, and I think you should get a better handle on it before . Just how much debt was your favorite plan going to pay down? How much debt was Obama’s plan going to add? And once those fundamental transformations he wanted were in place, just how – mathematically – do you think we were going to get rid of them?

    Do you know what’s (apparently) harder than math? Sticking to Conservative principles. We can all find some unity in our complete disdain for progressive socialist politicians…but I sure wish we fought like them. Fight with “pragmatism”? Lady, we are up against brass knuckled Chicago politicians. Too many people in the R party just don’t see this and don’t understand just how to fight back against that kind of machine. You don’t defeat them with pragmatism, you defeat them like Reagan did in the 80’s by sticking to Conservative principles and clearly and charismatically articulating them directly to the American Person.

    The national Republican party has a problem right now, and it is NOT the Conservatives. It is the RINO leadership in the U.S. House and Senate. We need to provide proper encouragement to people like Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz, and stop beating up the Tea Party.

    • Chuck,

      By your comments, it’s clear you’re missing the point, unfortunately. I never said that Obama’s plan was a good one, or that I agreed with the merits of it. Yet, you’re arguing the merits of Obama’s point here, implying I’m not a conservative under the false assumption that I agree with Obama’s plan. That’s not the point.

      Sometimes to make a point, you have to give someone what they want and let it fail. I encourage you to re-read the column from the intended perspective: a political analysis of how the tea party, conservatives and GOP “lost” even more ground through this fiscal cliff fight, and, at the same time, “lost” the battle. Until those three groups work together to be politically pragmatic and win, we will continue to lose.

      As a conservative, I prefer to see us win long-term. If fighting individual battles doesn’t win the battle or the long-term war, it’s futile, and we must change. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to lose. As a conservative, wouldn’t you rather be in a position to actually enact your policy agenda? Of course! And that requires winning.

      Sara Marie

      • In response to all who advocate that we should simply allow the Socialists to enact their policies: how easily you condemn current and future generations to needless pain and suffering. I guess you feel this way because you’re tired of the fight. But how long do you think it would take the electorate to “figure it out”? While the handout entitlement state grows daily via the Leviathan, you suggest that you are confident that those with the Obamaphones and Obamastash will actually vote to have these things taken away from them. And the big businesses who benefit mightily from the big government will continue to fight Conservatives by funding endless media campaigns (like pharma did for Obamacare).

        The worst thing about the “take my toys and go home” advocacy is that it shows a complete lack of knowledge about the history of world politics. Tyrannies do not simply give up power just because their policies fail: they ratchet up the rhetoric and take away more liberty, install more bureaucracies, and make new laws and regulations to destroy their opposition. Your response to these totalitarian (Chicago-style) tactics, you offer a policy of “no resistance”. Everyone who thinks that is a good idea needs to cowboy up and get in the ring.

        It’s sad, really, that any American would sit back and throw stones at those who stick to the principled ideologies that made this country great.

    • There are salient points to both Sara and Chuck’s arguments, from the way I see things:

      1. Winning long term and humiliating the opposition as to make them lose all credibility (especially this snake in the grass el presidente and his hordes of demons) is worth at least a decade and a half of GOP shoe ins for the House, Senate and Presidency. (Probably even more as the Dems would be stumbling around with that deer in the headlight look for a generation and we could constantly scold them for what they did last time -yes, I’d take delight in seeing their tiny spirits crushed).
      2. Given the above, we have an extremely weak set of leaders in the House and the Senate. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’m leaning towards insider party sabotage, as I have never seen anyone so spineless and without that Tea Party fighting spirit than Boehner. He might as well be Mr. Rogers. Case in point, the stronger members wanting to vote him out of his speakership. Boehner’s statement after the election that “Obamacare was the law of the land” was the white flag, to me, and totally inexcusable.

      Yes, if we had let Obama have everything he wanted there would have been damage to the economy and to the liberty endowed to us by the Constitution. BUT, I believe, that damage could be fully reversed:
      1. By the backlash of the populace against Obama’s priorities and leadership. You have no power if you have no followers.
      2. The inevitable weakening and partial dismantling of the Democratic Party (and its associated Communists and Socialists). Confront the Dems with facts and figures and failures, and they run from you like cockroaches from light.
      3. The resurgence of the GOP, infused with indignation and fire brought by the Tea Party, coming in to clean up the mess. The RINO infestation in the GOP is a cancer which must be cut out.
      4. With well placed strategies, such as cleaning out the Supreme Court, reversing Obama’s fiats, along with the inevitable self-fracturing of the Democratic Party, we could have all but been assured that we wouldn’t be bothered by them for a very long time.

      Sometimes Rome has to burn in order to be rebuilt.

      • I can really appreciate everyone’s sense of optimism that the MSM and all of the Democrats/Socialists will completely capitulate once their policies fail. When Joe Sixpack sees his taxes double, his healthcare revert to the DMV and his sons go off to war in the Middle East, do you think he will forgive the Republicans who decided they wouldn’t put up a fight? The major flaw in this theory that nobody seems to recognize is that the Republicans can’t just erase themselves from the voting process. They are in the majority and will have to cast enough votes to push though disastrous legislation. Such a vote will be hung around their necks – justifiably I might add – by the MSM. Most Democrat voters are way too ignorant to think for themselves and if they are told there’s no big difference between the Parties, they will vote as they always vote.

        What about the business owner who loses it all when “Rome burns”? Producers are already leaving this country, and if we become more like France, you will see the same results (as they are seeing). And Rome will not burn. Look at Britain and what three generations of strategic Fabians have done to a once-great empire.

        You don’t treat national politics like you treat your children. This is a combination of political guerrilla warfare and full frontal rhetorical assault.

        On November 7th, a real leader in the House would have immediately pointed to the bi-partisan budget passed in August and said “take it or leave it”. And then he would have counter-punched Reid by pointing out that he hasn’t passed a budget in 3 years, and BO by exposing his last budget that was so bad that not one Democrat voted for it.

        George Patton said it best:
        For in war just as in loving you must keep on shoving
        Or you’ll never get your reward. For if you are dilatory in the search for lust or glory
        You are up shitcreek and that’s the truth, Oh, Lord.
        So let us do real fighting, boring in and gouging, biting.
        Let’s take a chance now that we have the ball.
        Let’s forget those fine firm bases in the dreary shell raked spaces,
        Let’s shoot the works and win! Yes win it all.

  2. AMEN! Sara is the real conservative here. Do you really believe that the socialists policies will fail or not? We got stamped as the party of the rich again and for what? Start using your heads people.

    • Rich,

      I appreciate that. I knew that some, like Chuck above, would not understand the perspective or the entire point. Some are too muddled in the ideology to see the forest for the trees. Of course we have to stand for our principles, but what good does it do us to support those beliefs if we cannot enact them or have the power necessary through winning elections to enact our policy? As you said, we do have to “start using [our] heads,” or we will just continue losing.

      Sara Marie Brenner

    • Of course socialist policies fail. That’s the point. That’s why we fight them tooth fang & claw. That’s why political hacks like Boehner and McConnell need to be kicked out of their jobs, and real leaders like Jordan and Cruz put out in front.

  3. That’s what I’m saying since weeks (months)!
    We had 2 options:
    Option 1: do it like Gingrich/Kasich did it with Billyboy and force Obama to do the right thing. But the Failure-in-Chief isn’t Billyboy. The Failure-in-Chief would never move even an inch from his position and his agenda, so we have only
    Option 2: give Obama everything he wants (even 99% wouldn’t be enough, because at the end of the day the 1% he didn’t get would have made the difference and the R’s are to blame because Obama’s plan failed just by not having gotten the 100%). Tell everyone why the R’s are voting “present” and that the R-plan would work and the O-plan will fail. And then the Failure-in-Chief and his minions own the mess. NO excuses, no one else to blame. The voters get exactly what they voted for – good luck with that!
    By using neither one of these options, we are now the ones who get the heat!

    • Kurt,

      It sounds like you and I are thinking nearly the same on this. You’re right that your option 1 would have been better, but it wasn’t possible. In that case then, option 2 — what I explain in my column — is the only politically viable alternative.

      Sara Marie Brenner

    • The socialists never admit defeat, my friend. And they have the 4th and 5th columns in their back pockets, who will sell the story that the only reason that their socialist policies failed is because they didn’t spend enough money. This history has repeated itself over ad nauseum.

  4. Kurt… God Bless You!


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