It seems the Republican Party has decided to stop shooting itself in the foot, finally. With the announcement that Republicans will now support an unconditional 3 month debt limit extension, party leaders have finally made a smart move. This welcome news could not come soon enough, as congressional approval ratings hover just above single digits and the president’s rhetorical onslaught against Republicans continues unabated.
Without some change in strategy, the Republican Party is headed for certain disaster in 2014. I learned the straight-forward concept of majority rules growing up with younger twin brothers. Whenever our parents allowed us to vote on something, invariably the twins would vote one way and I would vote another. Two beats one every time in a democratic process, a concept that has escaped many Republicans for far too long in their role as opposition party to a Democratic president and senate.
The Republican death spiral owes as much to a president intent on using his considerable oratory skills at their expense as it does to their own intransigence. By framing many of his arguments in terms of fairness while simultaneously unfairly characterizing the opposition, the president has deftly positioned himself with many Americans as the only responsible adult in the room, which of course, could not be further from the truth. The president speaks in platitudes of a fair and balanced tax system, while 48% of Americans pay no federal income tax and the top 5% generate 59% of all government tax receipts.
Two recent statements by the president, one concerning deficit reduction and the other concerning gun control, further exemplify his willingness to play loose with facts while continuing to engage in attack mode against Republicans.
“But it seems as if what’s motivating and propelling at this point some of the House Republicans is more than simply deficit reduction. They have a particular vision about what government should and should not do. So they are suspicious about government’s commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat, or whether we should be spending money on medical research. So they’ve got a particular view of what government should do and should be.”
“There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty, not because that’s true but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”
With an opponent like the president who is willing to mis-characterize your positions in such an egregious manner, and a public willing to hear what they like and disregard the rest, House Republicans have decided correctly to pursue a new approach. This approach will be successful as long as House Republicans can maintain patience and confidence. The president’s agenda of bigger government and bigger deficits is a losing proposition, and this fact will become more fully realized by the public in the course of time. Instead of aggravating for change in terms that are clearly aggravating many Americans, House Republicans need to seize present opportunities where they can be successful.
This new strategy will entail operating in a much more bi-partisan manner on issues that are important to many Americans, namely immigration reform and gun control. Find common ground with Democrats on these issues and pass some legislation so you can also claim some of the credit when the president signs new laws into place.
Continue to work to limit the growth of spending, but do it in much smaller increments. Visions of a grand bargain on tax and entitlement reform must be forgotten, at least for now. Until Republicans have more power, continuing to advocate for big change will remain a big waste of time. Patiently bide your time until circumstances change and the need for entitlement reform becomes a more urgent priority among the electorate.
Remain confident that the principles of limited government, low taxation and personal responsibility will soon become more important to a public that is certain to grow ever more distrustful of the president’s trickle up economic theory that obviously does not work and will never work.
Above all else, remember that the principles that unite Republicans must never be used to divide Americans. Seek always to demonstrate how Republican ideals are the only way less advantaged Americans, especially minorities, can become empowered to realize their full potential, as opposed to the statists now in power who want government to control all aspects of our economy and society.
The olive branch of a 3 month debt limit extension is really more an act of preserving what little power Republicans now have than anything else. To maximize opportunities for gains in 2014, House Republicans must stand together in pursuit of their common objectives, and the only way to do that is to pay proper respect to the current balance of power. By the time election season heats up again, the president and his party will have driven the country further into the ground, and by then the American people will be ready to be led in a different direction.