You just have to wonder how many fights the Republican Party can lose before they are going to start making some changes. That’s been the conventional wisdom in and around Washington since Republicans won control of Congress in 2010. Republicans have little to show for all of their efforts. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to elect a white plutocrat to the White House, Republicans shut down the government in 2013 over Obamacare and then blamed the whole thing on President Obama in what is becoming an overly tired and trite game of political brinksmanship that really should have come to an end after Mr. Obama’s 2012 re-election. The goal of the Republican Party’s obstructionism from 2008-2012 was rooted in the belief that if they could deny the President any hope of bi-partisanship the country would blame the President and all they would need was a man with a suit and a pulse to beat him in the 2012 election. Well, that plan didn’t work for them, so now what?
Anyone who doesn’t pay attention to the day-to-day goings on of Washington probably doesn’t have any idea what Congress has been doing nor do they, in all likelihood, care. That’s good for incumbents because the last Congress was the least productive in American history. The numbers aren’t even close. The House Republican leadership scheduled more votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act than they did on all legislation designed to grow the economy (37-35.) The previous Congress spent more time trying to restrict access to birth control than they did trying to fund the government. Wherever you look in the Congressional record of the last two years you can find a record of failure and ineptitude. It’s a sad state of affairs, so sad in fact that the President spent more time during his State of the Union address explaining to the American people how he would use Executive power to sidestep Congress than he did trying to explain how he could work with them. Republicans stuck to their playbook and insisted that the President didn’t care about bi-partisanship etc. etc. We’ve heard the argument so many times most of us simply tune it out at this point.
Republicans could use a bold plan of action in this next election and win both the House and the Senate. It’s very doable. They’ll probably do it anyway on the strength of their candidates and the weakness of Democratic incumbents, but Republicans have more at stake in the mid-terms than control of Congress, they need to get back in the game and show that they can be competitive in the 2016 election. I use the word “competitive” of course because we all know that the Republican legislative agenda is not going to change thus the narrative will not change. It is unlikely that, barring some terrible self-inflicted wound like failing to raise the debt ceiling, that the economy is going to succumb to some systemic failure and it is equally unlikely that the issues of income inequality and joblessness that have haunted this recovery will get fixed either. That makes 2016 a status quo election. 2012 was a status quo election and Democrats won the White House because they had a better organization in place in key swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The President’s political machine remains largely in tact in these critical swing states and will be at the disposal of the next Democratic nominee for President. Republicans thus need to win on more than momentum, they need to win on organization and message to show weary SuperPACs that they should still donate to the Conservative cause come 2016.
The biggest demographic reason that the President won re-election was the strength of the Latino vote. Republicans are also concerned about the Hispanic community because it is the fastest growing demographic in the country. Republicans have put together an immigration reform package that, for the first time since the Reagan administration, provides a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. Contrast this position with the popular Herman Cain position of “let’s build a moat” around the fence on the Mexican border (as if Mexico were the only place immigrants were coming from) and it’s easy to see just how far the Republican Party is willing to stretch it’s neck out to win this demographic. Cain’s actual quote is just about as hilarious as it gets and warrants further review:
“I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology…It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!”
My favorite part of this fiasco was when a New York Times Reporter asked him about the human toll that building the Great Wall of China had:
You said of the Great Wall of China, “I think we could build one” as a solution to our immigration problems. Are you concerned that as many as three million Chinese died building it? [Cain:] My point was, if they could build that wall centuries ago without bulldozers, we can secure the border today. It could be a combination of walls and high-tech equipment. Now, if accidents happen, that’s one thing. But I think we can improve upon that ratio of three million people dying.
Also consider that when asked if he fired a Latino landscaper at his home before declaring his intention to run for President in 2012, Mitt Romney answered with: “of course not, I’m running for office for Pete’s sake!” Because running for office is the only reason one would ever have for firing illegal workers…
Given the communications problems that Republicans have had over the past couple of years many wonder whether they have the kind of discipline required to win a message war. The blame everything on Obama approach hasn’t been doing much for them, so perhaps a change in strategy is in order. One of the reasons that Romney campaign struggled so mightily in a year when the Republican Party really should have had the advantage was the well-documented reluctance and, at times, downright hostility to taking outside advice. I still believe that if the campaign had used my idea on jobs where the candidate simply visited every workplace that would have him in the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that he would have had a strong chance to win at least one of those states. Had that happened it is highly unlikely the President would have won the Electoral College and with it the Presidency. They key thing to realize here for Republicans is that such a plan does not require a change in policy simply a change in rhetoric. Republicans are already lying about where they stand on the issues, how they’ve voted, and even how and why they did certain things in the past as Sen. Ted Cruz’s attempts at historical revisionism over the last week has shown. It doesn’t need to be this difficult though.
Democrats are in a really tough spot in the mid-term elections. Their base is disjointed and many understand the difficulties of running on what I refer to as the “No to the recall, yes for Bustamante” strategy that Democrats used in the recall election of California Governor Gray Davis. Democrats were so confused in their strategy that were urging voters to vote against recalling the Governor of California and voting “yes, in the case of recall, I vote” for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante that Republicans had no problem ousting Gray Davis and making sure that Bustamante likewise had no chance at victory.
The Washington Times in their election night story summed up the “Bustamante Strategy” this way:
Mr. Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on the ballot, urged “no” on the recall but “yes” for him, a difficult strategy for winning. Mr. Davis’ campaign did not support his fellow Democrats candidacy, urging only that voters keep him in office.
In an interview with MSNBC in his hometown of Sacramento, Mr. Bustamante acknowledged that he ultimately hoped the recall would succeed.
“You would be disappointed, but you carry on,” he said when asked how he would feel if the recall failed but he finished first among the alternative candidates. “I said ‘no on the recall and yes on Bustamante the whole time. I was hoping that [Mr. Davis] would come over.”
The New York Times, in a pre-election story, anticipated the problems that might arise from the recall election. The strategy was so complex that most people didn’t know that there was more than one thing being voted on during the recall. This highly problematic strategy re-emerges for Democrats in a year where they have to distance themselves from both the President and the Congressional body that they have been a part of. It’s the kind of complicated two-step maneuver that would normally be impossible if Republicans weren’t so incredibly incompetent also. Republicans continue to cause problems for themselves by saying ridiculous things about women. Mike Huckabee suggested that women can’t control their libidos and needed the government to provide them with birth control lest every woman under thirty require an abortion of some kind. Huckabee didn’t stop there either, he suggested that the only person who could save women from “Uncle Sugar,” a hilariously undefined figure that one takes to mean the government, but really could mean just about anything.
What Republicans could do given their unique relationship with the truth and their actual voting records is to promise something that they wouldn’t ever realistically deliver on. What this means is that Republicans should pass reform packages that would be so far to the left that Democrats could not vote for them or the White House would have to veto them to avoid upsetting their own coalition of voters. Republicans insist that Unions are the problem in America yet they have failed to show how or why they are actually a problem. In this election cycle they actually have an opportunity to use the labor unions solid endorsements of Democrats to their advantage. You see, labor unions aren’t all giddy about immigration reform because if a clear and/or easy path to citizenship emerges for Latinos that means that more people are going to be competing for working class jobs which is a threat to their members.
White, middle class voters will not support legislation that would threaten their jobs. The recovery has been far too weak for voters to feel like they have any job security whatsoever. This provides Republicans with a unique opportunity to pass an immigration plan that is so liberal that it would be impossible for Democrats to support it. All you have to do is insert provisions that would provide undocumented workers with a way to enter the workforce en masse and provide them with incentives to gain employment in jobs that tend to vote for Democrats. This would not only upset labor unions, it would also threaten other key constituencies that Democrats rely on as well like African-American voters and the so-called Millenials, who are about as skeptical as you can get when it comes to the economy. This plan will never go into law remember because Democrats are so terrified of negotiating with Republicans you’d think that the GOP was practicing some kind of sorcery or something.
The reason that Republicans will not adopt my plan is fairly straight-forward. They refuse to take ideas from anyone not involved with the Heritage Foundation or Right to Life campaigns. They refuse to deal with people who do not 100% by into their ideology and though members of their caucus are so unruly and stupid that after the State of the Union one of them threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony and “break him in two” all ON CAMERA they still are far too proud to think that any one of their positions on the issues is wrong. In short, the psychology that rules the Republican Party is such that it is impossible for them to adopt a strategy that doesn’t involve the entire country getting down on their knees, admitting they were wrong, and asking nay begging Republicans to come in and fix their problems by whatever means necessary. It is a state that is so unbelievable that were I to throw this in one of my screenplays Hollywood would shoot it down as not, in any way, being believable. The problems inherent in this plan are the same ones that haunt my television series: Living History. Network executives simply say that no one – despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary – would ever act as plainly against their self-interests as Republicans have consistently done election after election since 2006. The only people more intractable than those on the extreme right are those on the extreme left.