Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner knows it’s coming. President Obama knows it’s coming. Even you sort of know it’s coming. Eventually, the non-Tea Party Republicans will have to fight back against their own party and define themselves in opposition to far-right Tea Party idealogues.
The reasons come from a simple electoral logic:
The general public hates self-induced fiscal crises, and largely blames the Republican Party for failing to compromise. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, around 60% of both Republicans and Democrats predict that the sequester will have negative effects on the economy ... and 45% blame the Republicans. That’s down from 53% who would blame the Republicans if the fiscal cuts go into effect, but this time, only 25% are following the news closely, suggesting that many will fail to differentiate the two in the end.
With numbers like these, it’s only a matter of time before simple election logic forces moderates (ahem, sorry, "fiscal conservatives") to take a public stand against their party. GOP senators from swing states will face criticism from both sides for going along with Tea Party lunacy. Already, Republican infighting has been an embarrassing sideshow during most of the last major legislative actions: the vote against Hurricane Sandy aid made it seem like Republicans didn’t care about those affected; domestic violence was almost brushed off as the Violence Against Women Act bill stalled; and Sandy Hook victims' relatives were outraged as GOP’s Martha Dean posted inflammatory comments on her facebook page. With fights like these seemingly designed to kill Republicans’ popularity, the moderate faction simply cannot continue to remain cooperative with the conservative wing.
The sequester will surely be the final push. Following President Obama's playbook, the Democrats will likely use the sequester to hammer home all of the problems brought on by austerity. More importantly, the Republicans will no longer have an issue to push forward — any call for more cuts will sound excessive, and the only items on the agenda will be those brought forward by Democrats — immigration, gun laws, and climate change.
From this point on, only two options will remain for mainstream Republicans. Either they will be relegated to the position of lame duck punching bags, accomplishing nothing but receiving blame for everything, or they will take a stand against the people in their own party and define themselves as the sane faction of an insane organization. That means cooperating with the Democrats on gun control, immigration, and climate change.
What we’ll see, in the end, is the final return of the moderate Republican. That’s not an oxymoron; only simple electoral logic. Forget worrying; we should expect good things after the sequester.