By Jason Miks
Editor’s note: GPS Editor Jason Miks speaks with TIME political columnist Joe Klein about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Watch Klein on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
A columnist in The Guardian this week suggested this may be the most divided American electorate ever. Whoever wins next month, can either candidate make good on President Obama’s pledge during his 2008 presidential campaign to bring the country together?
I actually think that either one of them is going to be in a strong position to make a deal. There’s a big deal coming down the road in terms of budgets and deficits, and I think it’s really interesting that on so many issues, the answers are now obvious. We’ve been in a period of real partisan gridlock, and I think that these problems are going to be solved.
Is one or the other candidate better positioned to do this?
No, I don’t think so. And I disagree first of all with the notion that this is a bitterly divided country. I think you have about a third of the country who hate the president and are Tea Party sorts. Then you have a much smaller “left” – perhaps about 5 percent of the country at most. But on a lot of major issues, I think there’s a real consensus out there, and I think the question is whether a Republican president like Mitt Romney would go with the national consensus, which is in favor of a balanced program for the future – restoration of the Clinton tax rates plus budget cutting and entitlement reform. And if Romney loses, the question is what does House Speaker John Boehner want his legacy to be? Some of it will depend on how much strength the Tea Party has coming out of these elections. We’ll see.
So you’re confident the U.S. can avoid the fiscal cliff?
I think that we’ve had four years of really heightened, destructive partisanship because of a strategic decision that was made on the part of the Republican leadership in the Congress, and one way or another that is coming to an end.
If Obama wins, then Mitch McConnell’s mission to get rid of him will have failed, and the party will have to deal with a new reality. And if Romney wins, I think there will be tremendous pressure to make a deal, and given the makeup of the Senate that is going to have to involve Democrats. And given that Democrats want to see higher rates, that’s going to be in there.