It is painfully obvious to most political observers that the Republican Party has chosen a very simple, cut and dried method to defeat President Obama during the 2010 midterms and the 2012 Presidential Election. The GOP has decided to oppose every last initiative the President puts forth, even the one’s they used to support, in the singular hope that the fortunes of the United States will not improve in enough time for Mr. Obama to be credited for the recovery. This strategy has Republicans believing that their brand will quickly recover from the setbacks of 2006 and 2008.
While the President and the Democrats have clearly taken a hit in the last few months, it is abundantly clear that this Dem downward trend has not resulted in an uptick in the popularity of the GOP brand. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked voters who they blame for not solving the country’s problems. 48 percent voted for the Republican Congress, 41 percent for the Democrats and 27 percent for President Obama.
The most glaring result of this poll is that 28 percent of respondents believe the federal government is simply not working.
The underlying theme of the ’08, ’09, ’10 campaign seasons has been and will be the belief that Washington is not operating correctly and it is time to “throw the bums out.” This is why Barack Obama was elected President, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has grown to such standing and Senator-Elect Scott Brown pulled off his shocking victory in Massachusetts.
The Republican establishment’s approach to minority governance may provide a level of short term success, but I strongly believe that endorsing this concept will further embolden the Tea Party sector of the GOP and push Independent voters back on the side of President Obama.
A classic example of standing against the President, despite supporting many of the measures he is offering, has played out in the recent discussions regarding how to curb the nation’s escalating debt.
During last Sunday’s edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) reiterated the current GOP’s unwavering belief that the nation’s budget needs to be supremely scaled back. The great comedy at play is the undisputed fact that Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President George W. Bush turned a year 2000 budget surplus into a $1.3 trillion debt by the time Bush returned to Texas in 2009.
“We should be going through this budget line by line and asking if this spending is worth having to borrow money that our kids and grandkids and going to have to pay back,” said Boehner to host David Gregory.
So maybe Boehner has seen the light? Funny how this same line of thinking was not repeated with same level of vigor in the days when he presided over the House chamber, but I digress. The key is that he wants to do something about it now. So, when the President wants to join in on this noble exercise, why would Republicans vote against taking a bite out of the debt?
Last week, the Senate passed a “Pay As You Go” provision which states that new spending had to be met with either spending cuts in other areas or a tax increase to replace lost revenue. One would think this conservative approach to expenditures would be unanimously supported by Republicans. Amazingly, not one GOP member voted for the stipulation. Even in the days when the Republicans ran Washington, they still voted against this idea five separate times. For some reason, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn previously voted for the bill, but now chose to vote against it.
Also last week, the Senate voted 53-46 against a bipartisanship proposal that would have appointed a blue-ribbon budget-deficit panel. The bill was offered by New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg and North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad. The vote failed to reach the magical 60 mark because notable Republican Senators and supposed deficit hawks, Jim DeMint (SC), James Inhofe (OK) and John McCain (AZ) voted against it. The only possible reason these anti debt figures could have possibly voted nay is because the White House supported the measure and the Repubs plan calls for opposing the President at every turn.
The GOP does not want to appear on the side of President Obama under any circumstance, even if they believe in the proposal. The plight of Senator-Elect Brown and Sen. McCain speaks to the pitfalls of this strategy.
Brown won in the Bay State because he ran against Washington, not necessarily Mr. Obama. His message was anti establishment, not pro-Republican. Do the GOP “powers that be” actually think that Brown’s pro-choice stance on abortion and support of gay marriage in Massachusetts means a comeback for the Republican base?
Remarkably, 2008 Republican nominee and Arizona institution, John McCain has a primary fight on his hands courtesy of former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth represents the Tea Party interests who believe that one of the most popular politicians in the country is not acting anywhere near as conservative as he should be. McCain has to support debt reduction on one hand, but vehemently oppose Mr. Obama on the other. He and the rest of the Tea Party targets have a major balancing act to perform.
How could the election of an off platform senator and an internal party challenge against the GOP’s standard bearer mean anything more than life not being so rosy for the Washington GOP establishment? If “throw the bums out” is the country’s mantra, then folks like Boehner and McConnell have a lot more to fear than President Obama. Obama just got to Washington, remember?