As the GOP prepares to release its 2012 budget on Tuesday, news reports reveal that the document proposes more than $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade, along with spending caps and reforms to Medicare and Medicaid. It sounds like a serious, responsible effort to confront the problem of unsustainable government expense. How much of the plan actually becomes law, however, depends on how Republicans handle the hysteria that will characterize the Democratic response to it.
For those who follow politics, that response is entirely predictable: Democrats will denounce the proposal as an unconscionable, “extreme” and deliberate effort to afflict widows, orphans, minorities and other victims. If for no other reason than to convince their strongest supporters of their seriousness of purpose, talking heads and politicians on both sides will be tempted to ratchet up the rhetoric.
But if Republicans are truly serious about making real headway in curbing the expense and reach of government, they must resist the temptation to partake in political “drama.” The bigger the proposed reforms, the more their proponents must seem steady, stable and reasonable. Indeed, voters will respond favorably to significant and far-reaching changes only if those proposing them demonstrate that they are capable of strong, steady and calm leadership. Republicans must walk a careful tightrope – imbuing the discussion about the budget with a sense of urgency without projecting an air of crisis. That’s because, above all, the American people are sick of crisis and turmoil.
After all, it has been an eventful decade for the United States – and not in an entirely positive way. There was 9/11, followed by an increasingly unpopular and divisive war in Iraq. Then, in 2008, the country was hit by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Hopeful that new leadership could turn things around, voters took a chance on the sanguine “No Drama” Obama; all they got was even higher unemployment, health care “reform” that they detest, skyrocketing deficits (February’s deficit alone was larger than that for the entire year of 2007), and, most recently, a strategically incoherent military foray into Libya.