Everyone from John Boehner to Elizabeth Warren to the newly reelected President Obama sounded notes of bipartisanship after the results came in on election night. With neither party in control of the legislature and the fiscal cliff coming the moment the ball drops in Times Square to signal the start of 2013, both parties have good reason to try and work together. But here is why they actually will:
The 2014 midterm elections.
Republicans won huge gains in 2010 by denying Obama every way that they could, but on Tuesday they saw the negative side of their plan. After four years of grandstanding and filibusters, the voters decided that President Obama was the reasonable one, voting him in along with some new Democratic senators. Now, with the fiscal cliff coming on January 1st, 2013, what do the Republicans do: cooperate or obstruct?
Before the election, the G.O.P would have obstructed Obama from reaching across the table to snag a donut, but now there is no point in strategizing how to beat Obama again, because the master campaigner has run his last race. Not only that, but until America cools down, everyone is watching politics, and Republicans face an abnormal amount of scrutiny. They really don’t want to be the ones blamed for sending us over the cliff when the calendar turns to 2013, or else voters might punish them again in the following year.
It’s a political calculation—and that’s not cynicism, it’s just reality—but the specter of 2014 might mean good behavior in the rest of 2012, so that come 2013, we stay on the good side of the fiscal cliff.