Dear Senator Chambliss,
I am a dedicated supporter of yours, having voted for you and worked hard as a volunteer on your run-off campaign. I am also a thoughtful constituent who researches the issues and gives my honest opinion of how I expect my representatives to represent me. I say all that to give context to my remarks, which are not a result of any off-the-cuff response to media hysteria but are my studied opinion of how you should proceed. I’ve worked as a legislative aide in a State House, so I understand how the office can be swamped with calls when a controversial issue comes up, especially when it draws such a frenzy of media attention. Please listen carefully and respond to my opinion and don’t just put a checkmark on the “Hates the Gang of Six plan” box.
Last week I sent you an email imploring you to hold firm on the debt ceiling and assuring you that your constituents support fiscal responsibility. I still believe that you have the overwhelming support of the American people, but I understand that political realities dictate certain concessions.
While I do believe that the Republicans could potentially hold firm and not raise the debt ceiling and still maintain the support of the popular opinion (Obama does not have the favorability ratings to sustain a prolonged battle, the media are already experiencing fatigue over his childish tantrums, and alternative media have grown to be such a powerful force that there is no longer one dominating narrative framing the discussion as Evil Republicans vs. Reasonable Democrats), I also believe that most people (especially your Tea Party constituency, who are the strongest opponents of any compromise) will be willing to accept a certain level of pragmatism IF you can explain yourself clearly and succinctly.
I read through the transcripts of your interview with Martha Zoller yesterday, and I am impressed with and completely understand what you are trying to accomplish here. You strive to remain true to your values and your constituents while facing the reality that you have to work with the cards you’ve been dealt.
The bill that passed the House this week is a great example of an exercise in futility: I would have heralded it as a brilliant step, offering as it does modest concessions on raising the debt ceiling as a realistic acknowledgement of the political reality that Obama threatens default (which in itself ought to be called out as economic terrorism) and requiring actual real-time spending cuts instead of ten-year “smoke and mirrors” promises, if it hadn’t involved the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. A balanced budget amendment is imperative, but this is not the time to be negotiating that, with our president threatening to withhold Social Security checks as the first item to be cut as long as we do not give him what he wants.
It seems to me that the House has simply decided to make a rhetorical gesture of dying on their sword to appease their base. So I can understand that you’re trying to accomplish something that will actually succeed, and make it as palatable as possible to your constituency. I applaud you for your months of effort to craft a bipartisan approach. You are the voice of reason.
The problem is that it has become increasingly apparent that there is no compromise between what President Obama wants, and what the majority of the American people want. You must understand that, and clearly explain it to your colleagues and constituents in a way that everyone can understand and agree with. Get out your little Venn Diagrams and demonstrate that whatever Obama will accept is not acceptable to the American people.
The farthest limits of our patience have been tried with the realization that we will have to raise the debt ceiling yet again, but we want it tied down to real spending cuts, and kept to a modest level so that this issue is forced to the front again and again. That’s all.
That’s a reasonable compromise, and one that you can make a case for to your constituents. Give us six months of breathing room, and let the next election center around the issue of a true resolution to the budget crisis by making the most of the time you’ve bought with the debt ceiling increase. Without the immediate specter of default overshadowing the debate, let President Obama show us how to eat our peas by pressing him every day to showcase the spending cuts he’s actually willing to make.
Please respond quickly with your answer. I’m going to be making this point publicly, and I’d like to know that you’re listening to your constituents’ concerns just as surely as I want you to know that I am listening to you. Please keep us informed. We’ll keep you honest.