Not long ago, I stated on Facebook that there is no happy ending for the Republican Party this year. It may surprise you to find out that I am not conjecturing on the basis of personal pessimism.
If the Bush Tax Cuts for the middle class expire, the GOP will get the blame, whether they deserve it or not. If they concede to President Obama, the GOP will be forced to explain itself to an infuriated constituency. If they wait until the very last moment to pass an extension of the cuts for everyone, when it is too late for the Senate or President to change it, and are therefore forced to sign off on it, they will be accused of playing dirty and will thus get the same amount of bad press we would receive if they did nothing. Given the circumstances – President Obama can practically blackmail the party with the wrath of the media. And as far as cutting a deal is concerned, President Obama can probably get away with his tax increases while leaving the Republicans with absolute jack.
How did it come to this? How did the Republican Party…my party reach this level of such weakness and vulnerability?
The answer is simple: it did this to itself. The Republican Party has become a failure.
The first thing that happened was that we let our victory in the House in 2010 get to our heads without properly understanding the reason for that victory. The Tea Party raised concerns that were both valid and shared by the population as a whole – but with the rhetoric came a great deal of baggage that we were not prepared to deal with. Not only was elevated status in the refurbished Republican party enjoyed by certain individuals of whom the public had a general disdain for (Sharron Angle & Christine O’Donnell), but more importantly we failed to do what Newt Gingrich succeeded in doing in 1994 when he had his historic victory – present a comparable policy package that was noticeably different from the President’s – one that would force the Commander in Chief to adapt and thus adopt a more moderate stance on the issues in the spirit of bipartisanship and governance the way Bill Clinton did. That’s what the public wanted.
Instead, the message was all about shutting down the President – keep him from doing more damage, undo his work, and see his presidency come to a bitter end in 2012. It was not a goal that I was opposed to – but the problem is that this was all they presented to the people.
At this point, what I could probably do is nitpick through the handful of economically beneficial legislation that were passed through the House of Representatives, such as H.R. 3606 – Reopening American Capital Markets to Emerging Growth Companies Act of 2011 (law as of April, 2012), or H.R. 2416 – the DATA Act – to create an independent agency in the executive branch to monitor government spending in order to keep it transparent and prevent fraud…or the various Trade Agreements made with Panama, Columbia, and North Korea (also law). However, I’m not going to do that.
The reason is this – what the House was able to pass was (albeit unfairly), pushed aside attention-wise compared to what was not passed or what was stonewalled. Republicans did not foresee the ramifications and repercussions of their actions in the eyes of the body populace. They thought that after this monumental victory in what was most certainly a powerful statement against the policies and agenda items passed and implemented by President Obama and his allies, that they could thus afford to sit tight, assured that victory in 2012 was already theirs, and that the real action would start once a Republican was back in charge.
Talk about short term planning. The plan was about as subtle as a stampede of elephants (how’s that for an ironic analogy?) and was futilely doomed from the very beginning by one overarching rule of politics that had been entirely ignored. Perception is reality.
A bitter lesson I as a conservative individual have learned the hard way is – you can be correct on the facts of an issue, you can present those truths as perfectly as possible, and still lose out to the body populace whom on a whole is simply not ready or willing to bear it.
Once it was clear to the public, thanks to the ill-gotten media as well as their own actions, that Republicans were not interested in working with the President, but merely occupying the House of Representatives to stall political action and contribute to the dysfunction of Washington that was now perceived as worse than ever (even though historically it wasn’t), until a man of their own could ascend to the White House and, by the grace of God, undo the monstrosity President Obama had set us on the path towards, the truth that escaped us was that in spite of our victory in the battle, we had lost the war. When you mount a case against a sitting president, or a sitting policy platform, it does not matter how right you are; only how right the general public believes you are. At the end of 2010, the Republican Party’s message about President Obama was loud and clear. The problem was that it stopped there, and the people did not believe that was good enough, especially when the President was playing his own game of branding.
When you fail to adequately define yourself, your enemy will define you for their own benefit. They will craft a man of straw so looming and terrifying, that they will joyfully savage it to pieces while you helplessly sit, hoping that people will vote on the better inclinations of their own reason (according to you, that is).
That is precisely what President Obama and the Democrats did to the Republicans. They changed the conversation from the insolvency and unsustainability of our spending levels to the conflict of classist interests between the rich and the poor. The robber barons, according to the Democrats, having hijacked the GOP for their own benefit at the cost to the rest of America were now a parasite on the economy and therefore must be taxed to redistribute the wealth and because they were not paying their “fair share”. Meanwhile, the GOP had no interest in your own well-being – all they care about is protecting the rich while restricting your access to birth control and preventing your gay friend from marrying who he wanted to. The Republican Party clearly wants this economy and this horrendous unemployment rate to stay where it is so that President Obama could absorb the blame and thus be easier to defeat in November of 2012. They also hate black people, didn’t you know?
This, according to the Democratic Party, was the new GOP. It wasn’t true. It was silly, childish, and false on just about every level, void of all decency, but you know what? It sold. People believed it. Why? Because the Republican Party, in its disarray and dysfunction, void of strong proper leadership and its message, schizophrenic, incoherent, and presented as an assembly of bones thrown to the dogs of the various coalitions embodying the whole that shared the common vote and little else…let it happen.
It remains a fact that our recovery is anemic and mostly happening in spite or away from the President’s policies, not due to it. It remains a fact that our deficit incurring spending levels coupled with our borrowing from China is unsustainable and tantamount to national bankruptcy. It remains a fact that Medicare and Social Security are the two biggest black holes of our country’s wealth and are not only in dire need of structural reform, but our attempts to do so have been stymied by special interest groups tied firmly to America’s Left, hell-bent on keeping with the impossible status quo. It remains a fact that more and more people in my generation are graduating college with degrees they later find to be worthless and going home to live with their parents because of the financial rationale. It remains a fact that our financial system is a mess with inharmonious regulatory policies, which is subsequently stalling the recovery of the Housing Market. It remains a fact that our nation’s state of health is getting worse every year, with a greater and greater population of overweight and sickly individuals, also unwittingly contributing to the rising cost of healthcare in this country.
Sound conservative fiscally pragmatic policy with a strong mechanism of enforcement (in other words – governance) is needed now more than ever. To Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s credit, they talked about most of these things a lot more than most others, and they did what they could to define their campaign around most of these issues.
Unfortunately, their efforts were unwittingly stifled by a GOP that did not echo the call to action – a GOP that consistently demonstrated its ignorance and gullibility by blinking on the issues that Democrats wanted it to blink on. Without a solidified core of steadfast ideology that we could comfortably defend without overreaching and overexerting ourselves to create a platform of meaningful solutions to the very present problems our nation faced (that’s another note in and of itself), all Republicans could do was follow the lead of the Democrats.
Democrats brought up gun control; Republicans talked about gun control. Fast and Furious was a thing…remember that? Good; no one else does, because Democrats won. Democrats brought up gay rights; the Republicans shifted to talking about gay rights. Then came Mitt Romney’s infamous encounter with a gay veteran. Democrats won. Democrats brought up abortion; the Republicans shifted to talking about abortion. Then came Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and John Koster. Democrats won. Democrats brought up the rich; Republicans talked about the rich. Then came Romney’s 47% comment. Democrats won.
Mitt Romney was like a former champion running a cross-country marathon while wearing a blindfold. He needed a cohesive and methodical support structure to guide his movements. When he didn’t get that, he was lost in the background noise, exacerbated by the Democrats. We failed our candidate whom we bet it all on, and worst of all, we failed our country.
What happens next is on us. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the last two years, our country will continue to suffer for it.