Political scientist Steven Teles ruminates on political strategies regarding deficit reduction. He holds that Republican politicians hold the key as to whether a policy change will be enacted:
Assuming that Republican elected officials want to cut a deal, do they believe that they could plausibly get away with it where their base is concerned? This is where I have severe skepticism… Their base is mobilized, and thus capable of something like collective action if they believe their interests are being violated by their representatives…the base has been converging on litmus tests so extreme that only people who REALLY are not sell-outs would agree on them.
Teles thinks that the Republican base will push Republican politicians away from any deal that includes tax increases, and thus decrease the likelihood of a deal being worked out. I’m not so sure. My sense is that tea partiers see deficit reduction itself as within their interest, and may mobilize against any politicians that oppose it. Furthermore, the republican base may mobilize against spending cuts, particularly those to Medicare, social security and defense spending. So this could break any number of ways. As I wrote earlier:
The tea parties’ stated policy goals–cut taxes, reduce the deficit, don’t cut any major spending programs–indeed are contradictory…As Republicans, and tea-party Republicans specifically–gain some measure of influence over policy, they’ll be forced to confront these trade-offs.
The tea parties’ leaders belong in this conversation. If they have substantive contributions to the conversation, let’s hear them. Ron and Rand Paul, Rick Santelli, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, any tea-party member…the ball’s in your court.