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"Fiscal Cliff" Is the Campaign Continued

The two topics dominating the political chattering classes as we approach the end of the year are "final reviews" of the 2012 election cycle and commentary on the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

In my own writing at the Washington Monthly, I've tried to point out that the two phenomena are largely the same: that the fiscal negotiations represent positions advanced by the various players during the campaign. Nothing's really changed.

The most important thing to understand is that conservative backbench resistance to a fiscal deal isn't coming from people who just want John Boehner or Mitch McConnell to drive a tougher bargain, but from representatives of a radicalized conservative movement (a.k.a., the Tea Party) that is seeking permanent restrictions on progressive governance, as reflected in their bottom-line "cut, cap and balance" position. Conservative activists who managed to keep the Republican Party in their grip throughout the 2012 cycle against the GOP's own electoral interests are not about to give up now, even if they do accept a temporary "fiscal cliff" palliative that delays the big reckoning to a debt limit fight a few weeks later.

And those who think the Tea Folk are just going to go away--or that power struggles like the one gripping FreedomWorks are End Times phenomena for their movement--really haven't been paying close enough attention. The conservative movement drive to take over the GOP took more than four decades to succeed. Its policy goals are fixed and eternal. So it's not about to fade into the background and give a free hand to the Republican Establishment "adults" it's been bossing around for the last four years.