By Cheri Jacobus - 04/07/11 10:29 PM EDT
Fiscal sanity versus the ruination of America. That seems to be where the budget debate lies.
The Republican budget proposal to eliminate some $6 trillion in federal spending over the next decade and eliminate the deficit in 30 years is shocking — but only in the sense that the situation has become so out of hand, so insanely ridiculous, it will take at least that much and that long to right the wrongs of Washington.
While Democrats whine and lie about mean Republicans “taking” from seniors and children, many conservatives are concerned that Ryan’s long-term budget plan might not go far enough, soon enough to save the country. It’s highly likely the GOP presidential primary contest will be centered on just this point — a healthy, adult, responsible discussion on the question of whether the GOP was trying to cut enough. Did we go far enough? Did we fight hard enough? The question of reining in how much to steal from future generations is a moral issue, as well — at least for the GOP — since President Obama and the Democrats lack moral misgivings about such theft.
When a GOP nominee emerges, it will be someone who hits all the right notes and has established a proven record of fiscal sanity. The primary process will ensure the public will be well-versed and primed on fiscal issues. One surprising indication that Americans (or at least Republicans) are dead serious about getting our fiscal house in order is a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing gazillionaire Donald Trump scoring quite well, sharing second place with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in a nine-person field among likely Republican primary voters. That’s how hungry Americans are for fiscal leadership.
That same poll also shows the nation about split on the issue of a government shutdown, with conservatives favoring deep spending cuts even if it means Democrats force a shutdown, but others in the electorate favoring compromise in order to avoid a shutdown.
But who cares more? It’s far more likely voters favoring cuts and willing to withstand a shutdown will vote on that as a key issue than those favoring “compromise,” putting it front and center when they go to the polls next year. An enthusiasm gap, perhaps?
Can there BE a more frightening scenario for Obama and the Democrats? Can they actually get enough voters to the polls who care more about federal handouts than the future of the nation? Certainly those people exist. But identifying more of them than those committed to reducing deficits and debt will be a nifty trick, indeed. It will take a lot of fancy footwork, lies and out-and-out bribery with promises of more taxpayer-financed goodies to get them to the polls.
Pulling at our heartstrings to get to our purse strings is an uninspired campaign tactic — and a cheap one at that. Democrats desperately need to close the enthusiasm gap that crippled their 2010 campaign. While Americans who are deeply concerned about the debt and deficits plaguing the nation are becoming more fully engaged at an earlier point in the election cycle, with many never dipping into complacency after last November’s elections, where voter turnout was higher than any midterm election since 1982, Democrats are trying to appeal to a base that feeds from the federal coffers and is desperate to continue to do so — consequences be damned. Republicans are appealing to the patriotic, moral, responsible better angels of Americans. Democrats are left to pick away at the rotting carcass of self-interest and fear as the centerpiece of their national campaign strategy.
How insane is that?
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.