Fiscal Cliff 2013: Why Congress is Unlikely to Strike a Deal


With Florida’s electoral votes finally going to President Obama, the election is officially called and over. Now, the nation shifts its focus on whether a still-divided congress can finally find a way to work together.

This is the topic of Research Radio’s latest podcast, A Facelift for the GOP?

Research Radio, a podcast series from The New School in New York that details the university’s stories of academic inquiry, recently caught up with Jeff Smith, assistant professor of politics at the Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. The conversation centers on a new Republican Party vision and the looming fiscal cliff.

Skeptical of Congress’s ability to overcome legislative gridlock, Smith discusses his predictions for what’s in store during Washington’s lame duck session and the months following, as well as his advice for the future GOP party platforms. “It’s not good political math to take the group that’s been the fastest growing group for the last 20 years and systematically alienate them,” said Smith. “They’ve got to change their position on the DREAM Act.” Smith outlines more examples of how the GOP can begin appealing to 100% of the electorate in the podcast.

To his role at The New School, Smith brings a unique back-story. From 2007 to 2009, he served as a Missouri State Senator. In 2010, as punishment for a minor campaign law infraction, Smith spent much of the year in federal prison. His up-close-and-personal experience with the vagaries and gray areas of campaign finance and electioneering makes him a keen observer of the political sphere.

Smith says that two tendencies — a self-sorting of the population of liberals along the coasts and conservatives in the middle, as well as the technological advances allowing districts to be tailored according to political behavior — gave rise to a polarized Congress of politicians with little incentive to moderate their views or cooperate. Which brought the American people to their current plight of a legislative branch stuck in stalemate.

Will the chasm separating a politically polarized citizenry be bridged anytime soon? Or will partisanship steer the political machines into a traffic jam? Smith isn’t optimistic. “I think the gridlock is going to get worse before it gets better,” he says. “The country will need to reach a place where it is looking over at the abyss. We aren’t quite there yet.” For these reasons, Smith remains skeptical that Congress can find a full-fledged compromise to the “fiscal cliff” in the next five weeks.

Listen to A GOP Facelift? here.

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