Moving on to worse things

Tired of the Tea Parties? Had it with the healthcare law 58 percent of Americans want repealed? The divisive debate about how to fix our energy sector? The fact that neither party will ever really stand up to Wall Street? 

Hang in there, because most of it, along with volcanic ash and eruptions about Michael Steele’s spending at the Republican National Committee (RNC), is just going to go away.

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A year from now we will have moved on to other stuff, much of it worse. Here’s a preview:

• Iran — The challenge of containing a nuclear Iran will soon take center stage. A Pentagon report released this week concludes that Iran could become capable of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States by 2015. Talks continue with Russia and China to adopt sanctions “with bite,” and could drag on throughout the rest of the year. The Pentagon report also reveals Iran’s vast support for insurgencies and terrorists in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many other countries where Iran seeks to undermine the U.S. by befriending our enemies. The influence the Iranians have with the Taliban will play a role in determining how effective the Obama administration’s policy is in Afghanistan, as will Iran’s meddling in Iraq as we prepare to withdraw. 

• Debt — President Barack Obama’s debt commission is set to get to work on the nation’s intractable fiscal crisis, and plans to make recommendations by the end of the year, just as the Bush tax cuts will expire. Which tax cuts will the administration extend? Unemployment isn’t expected to improve by then, and with tax receipts still falling, deficits will likely be rising. Will liberals agree to cut spending? Will conservatives agree to raise taxes? How far will Obama be willing to go a year before he runs for reelection? Will he run on making those “hard decisions,” as a deficit-cutter? Or will he keep punting? The perfect punt is the value-added tax, which many suspect is under consideration since it can remain hidden while raising billions and be increased in imperceptible increments. 

• The DeMint divide — We can’t assess the impact of the Tea Party or Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund on the GOP until the days following the elections this Nov. 2. The midterm elections will close the window on the searching period Republicans have enjoyed since 2006 while losing seats and bickering over the party’s direction. It will be time to coalesce around a few leaders and eventually a nominee for president in 2012. Will the Tea Party vote GOP in large numbers, or will many stay home? Anything less than a knockout in the midterms could embolden GOP party centrists to preach the embrace of moderates in order to win the White House. Will conservative Pat Toomey, once written off by the party’s establishment, have won a Senate seat in Pennsylvania? How will Sarah Palin be polling then? 

• Diminished Democrats — Losing seats in this fall’s elections will alter the relationship between Democrats and President Obama and the agenda they can pursue. Even if they hold majorities in both chambers, much will have changed. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may have lost reelection and either Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) or Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) could replace him as Democratic leader. Big-ticket items like immigration reform and energy reform could be gone, along with the candidates the administration helped, like Reid, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). It will be a whole new deck of cards for Democrats next year.

Unfortunately, the volcanic ash could stick around, if history repeats itself. But Michael Steele’s embattled RNC chairmanship — not a chance. 

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.