Well at least that celebratory intoxication is behind us, although the shaking off of a particularly pounding Democratic hangover will be an exceptionally long one. As Jonathan Weisman observes in a stinging NYT analysis, what the party of FDR just wrought was "a Republican fiscal fantasy, a sweeping bill that locks in virtually all of the Bush-era tax cuts, exempts almost all estates from taxation, and enshrines the former president’s credo that dividends and capital gains should be taxed equally and gently."
Meanwhile, back in the bunker, Republicans are realizing it's a new, bright, and invigorating day outside. Their contempt for the civilized American Way and Democratic strategies to further it now shifts from a surly brooding to ridiculing laughter. A crushing, spiritual defeat at the polls, you say? Surely you jest, they reply. In Weisman's phrasing, they "are a new breed, less enamored of tax cuts per se than they are driven to shrink government through steep spending cuts." Oh, but thanks anyway, they add, for the permanence of those cuts, which they had pretty much given up on.
In what is perhaps one of the most magnificent ironies of modern American politics, we may have misread in this suspenseful tragedy the true identities of the hedgehog and the fox; or, maybe, their historical roles have simply reversed.
For four years we admired the fox's stealth in his shrewd pursuit of a "long game" and inescapable compromise, if any progress was to be had. This was as it should have been. Only fools, drunks, amateurs and ideologues advocated a politically hyperaggressive first term. Yet many of those wise followers are conceptually stuck. They persist in what is now a foolhardy belief in a long game--foolhardy, since the fox possesses only two years at the outside of strategic attrition. At this stage, a lightning war (sorry to be mixing metaphors) is the only victorious option; knock the enemy out early with everything you've got, while you've got it. In this would unfold strategic flexibility--a key component of the politically creative and nimble fox.
Yet while the hedgehogs have been burrowing, as hedgehogs are wont to do--indeed, they've played their own version of the long game--it is they who are now demonstrating some strategic flamboyance, graceful foot-shifting and brutal knife-shoving. Those permanent tax cuts? "Hey, thanks guys. We never thought we could do it. In fact we didn't. You did. And we sure appreciate it. What's more, your eternal shorting of government revenue will make it all that much easier for us to pursue our even greater dream: slashing the hell out of government spending."
And, because compromise remains a key component of the fox's outdated long game, the hedgehogs will be successful, bit by bloody bit.