Come Monday, it’s on

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As we approach Labor Day many of you will look forward to cookouts and the last hurrah of summer activities and celebrations. Historically, Labor Day has marked the beginning of campaign season. As the summer heat diminishes the political heat escalates.

Harry Truman coined the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.” Give ‘em Hell, Harry was written off by the pundits on Labor Day of 1947. However, he proved them all wrong in November of 1948. He beat the Republican Thomas Dewey even with one hand tied behind him when the reliably Democratic-solid South bolted and voted for the Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.

President Barack Obama will face a tough reelection campaign next year. He won in 2008 because of the dismal economy. The nation’s economy is still in the doldrums and may be in even worse shape than it was four years ago. The national debt has escalated dramatically. This spiraling federal deficit is causing concern and even alarm among American voters. This crisis was brought to the forefront with the recent showdowns in Washington that threatened to shut down the government. The last minute deal that barely avoided a first-ever default by the U.S. government has caused extreme consternation with Americans.

If the economy were not the primary issue for the 2012 Election it most certainly is now. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s political guru when discussing other issues in 1992, James Carville would repeat, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Well 20 years later it is still the economy.

This near-default has focused the American electorate on this issue and even though financial Armageddon was avoided, the political fallout will be significant. This stalemate and partisan game of chicken left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Americans. It awakened them and made them angry. They blame both political parties.

Actually, national polling indicates that more folks blame the GOP Congress than the president. However, the deeper reading of the numbers reveals a deep seated-dislike and distrust of both the president and Congress. The bottom line is that this deficit default debacle has resonated with the electorate and will have repercussions.

The question is who will be affected the most. My guess is that President Obama will be hit the hardest. He is a clearly defined target. The 535 members of Congress are hard to zero in on. They are a nebulous entity and enemy. Most Americans could not even tell you who their congressperson is, much less how they voted or their participation level in the early August fire.

In the debate over raising the government’s debt ceiling, President Obama has seen his approval rating fall to a new low. His liberal base is enraged over compromises he made on issues such as protecting Medicare from cuts. Republican House Speaker John Boehner was also weakened. His legs were totally cut out from under him. He was forced to pull his own plan from the House floor for revisions demanded by conservative Tea Party members.

These new Republicans are not satisfied to sit on a back bench and be quiet. They have thrown the old saying, “in order to get along you have to go along,” into the Potomac the same way the original tea partiers threw tea into the Boston Harbor.

These Tea Party conservatives who came to Washington in 2010 were the ultimate winners in the last minute deal that went down to the wire. They are on a mission and the Washington backroom deal mentality does not apply to them. They refused to compromise and did not blink in the old game of chicken. They have set the federal government on a new, more conservative course.

Alabama’s two new Republican congresspeople are among the most conservative Tea Party newcomers. Indeed, our two freshman GOP representatives, Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Martha Roby of Montgomery, voted against the last minute deal, which passed the House by a 269 to 161 margin. Our other five congressmen voted in favor of the bipartisan compromise. Brooks and Roby both cited the potential cuts to military and Pentagon spending as their reason. Roby said, “This bill has a weak fire wall against potentially destructive defense cuts.”

This issue is not dead. The national debt is real. This last minute August deal merely bought more time and kicked the proverbial can down the road. Ultimately, a permanent solution to the problem must be reached. The political consequences will be wide-ranging and long-lasting.

In the meantime, have a Happy Labor Day.