Losing in the court of public opinion
Tue Dec 4, 2012
With congressional Republicans and President Obama nowhere near one another when it comes to the ongoing fiscal talks, the likelihood of failure at the end of the month is quite high. Who would the American mainstream hold responsible for the mess? According a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, it's not a close call.By a nearly two-to-one margin, Americans would blame GOP lawmakers for the failure to reach a bipartisan agreement.
Though it's common for many to reflexively blame "both sides" for every political misstep, in this poll, only about one in 10 people would hold both Republicans and the president responsible.What's more, these perceptions seem pretty stable -- a similar poll was conducted three weeks ago, and the results were largely identical.
The question is whether any of this will have a practical effect. Chris Cillizza reported, "Republicans are well aware of where the public seems ready to put the blame if no deal on the cliff is reached. It's why House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) offered a counterproposal Monday to the one President Obama laid out last week. Simply letting stalemate stand for the next 10 to 14 days is unacceptable to Republicans who know they have to do everything they can to avoid the cliff -- and the blame for it that seems likely headed their way."
In recent years, GOP officials have generally ignored public pressure, but it's worth keeping in mind that both Obama and Republican leaders have made an effort to persuade the public, and at this point, only one of those sides is winning.
There's obviously an enormous amount of time before the 2014 midterms, at which point lawmakers will face the public's judgment, but between now and then, how eager are congressional Republicans to explain why they decided, on purpose, to shrink middle-class workers' paychecks, not just through income taxes, but also through payroll taxes?