US debt deal winners and losers

Tea Party protesters outside the Capitol, Washington DC (27 June 2011) Many Tea Party activists will not be happy unless all their demands are met

It is nearly over. Although we are still waiting for the Senate to vote it seems Washington has narrowly averted turning a domestic drama into a world crisis.

But it could be a pivotal moment in American politics. Who are the winners and losers? The leader of Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi gave the game away when she agreed that one of the quotes of the day, that the deal was "a Satan sandwich". "With Satan fries on the side," added the former speaker.

Winners and losers: you could nominate the American economy for either category, depending on your politics; Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell as winners for actually doing the deal; Mitt Romney as a loser for shamelessness in condemning it, but my choices are more obvious.

The loser: The president

It could be worse for Barack Obama. But not by much. If America had defaulted on its debt he would be a marked man. That has not happened.

But he loses in two ways. First the policy. Let's be quite clear about this - the only victories for Mr Obama are the bullets he has managed to dodge. He has been forced to accept deep cuts which run counter to all his plans and which his party hates. Remember he would have liked a second stimulus plan. Instead, he has been made to swallow spending cuts which undermine his attempt to transform America.

The second way he loses is that he has not looked like a leader.

He has made a big play to seem to be the only grown-up in the room, the sensible compromiser. That may appeal to the centre, but it is hardly hope and change. He has not grabbed this issue and wrestled it into a shape pleasing to his supporters. OK, it is hard to know how he could have done that.

But that is what makes great leaders great, they spot possibilities that elude the rest of us. The one chink of light for Mr Obama is that he has kept tax rises on the table for the future. But that is hardly a strategy.

In 2012 he can, of course, contrast what the Republicans have done now, with what he would like to do. But that only really works if you think the policies of his first two years have been judged an outstanding success.

The winner: The Tea Party

Start Quote

The Tea Party is not a freakish aberration of the angry but a power that can win elections and change the policy of a country”

End Quote

Any other movement would be crowing victory from the rooftops. They seized on a vote that had become as routine and uncontroversial as putting the cat out, and crafted it into a crisis. They used it to push their main demand to the top of America's political agenda. And they have won the deep cuts to government spending that they wanted.

But the Tea Party is more than just fiscal conservatism, even if it is far short of the madness its enemies claim. It is a movement of people so consumed with the righteousness of their cause, like the mirror image of 1960s radicals, that they are convinced betrayal is inevitable.

To the fiscally pure, 99% of what they want is as bad as a fat zero and a kick in the butt. Only the Tea Party could claim that this deal is a strategic masterstroke by Mr Obama, as Redstate does.

They may want to feel like hunted underdogs but it is clear to the rest of us that the Tea Party is not a freakish aberration of the angry but a power that can win elections and change the policy of a country. The way it has done this has reinforced its image, good and ill.

Its detractors will say this episode proves its irresponsibility and willingness to drive the country to the brink of disaster to get its way. Supporters will glory that rebel souls have proven the worth of making a stand and holding true to a cause. And more centrist Republicans will hide their guilty secret from sight.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Is Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy about to bring back Blairism?

Those on the left think new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could be about to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    trouble with republicans is they are so used to lying they still think they are good at stupid illogical spin when everyone can smell their bull

    does anyone think they were trying to good by shafting the debt bill continually in public or was it for petty bloody minded destructive politics

    p.s. was there a glitch in the matrix and we have lost 5 hours postings

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    My comment at #149 now is the highest negative rating at -11. Quite remarkable for a question and a mild, surely inoffensive statement of my opinion regarding the economic facts regarding the US. Perhaps people's prejudices are reacting to my pen name. You did read the comment chaps, or are you only interested in comments that feed your violent anti-American, virulent anti-right wing bias?

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    "history tells us higher taxes lead to jobs"

    Indeed, higher taxes in U.S. always lead to higher employment in China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    The United States ain't United they're divided
    They say they treat everyone as equals
    But GOP want to check Presidents Certificate
    of Birth still said negro

    US Triple A Rating stripped
    there ain't no need to trip
    Republicans won't pay tax
    or pass bill in the senate

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    [Watch Coen Bros remake of "True Grit"]

    Seen it- a good movie, also liked Eastwood in El Dorado as well and that Michael Caine where he fought back against the drug gangs (didn't realize how rough some parts of UK are)

    I love Jeff Bridges primarily b/c of Big Lebowski which was "THE" college movie my freshman year

    Tron, Crazy Heart, Big Lebowski, True Grit, all great movies


Comments 5 of 566



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.