Dissecting the Republican Political Strategy

On the night of Obama’s inauguration in 2009, a group of Congressional Republicans met in Washington, D.C. to plan a strategy for winning back Congress and the White House. Among those in attendance were Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Jim DeMint. A key part of the strategy they developed was to “Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies.” In other words, obstructionism would be the GOP’s main strategy going forward.

In December 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that their “Top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” This statement came on the heels of the 2010 midterm elections, where the Republican rhetoric claimed that jobs and the economy were their top priorities. But it seems that the rhetoric of the 2010 campaign was just that–all talk designed to get voters to vote Republican.

Make no mistake, Republicans have been nothing but obstructionist since Obama’s inauguration–only 8 days afterward, House Republicans voted a unanimous ‘no’ on the President’s economic stimulus plan. We have seen an unprecedented number of filibusters in the Democratic-held Senate. We’ve heard Republicans oppose the President on nearly every policy issue imaginable. Sure, you could argue that Republicans truly opposed these policies on ideological grounds. But opposing every one of them? It seems like an illogical outcome from the party who always cries for bipartisanship when they’re in the minority.

This captures the GOP strategy nicely. Their consistent obstructionism has been twisted to make President Obama appear ineffective.

Take Obamacare, for example. Nearly all Congressional Republicans oppose it, and Mitt Romney says he’ll repeal it in full if he’s elected President. But, did you know that the legislation includes many provisions originally proposed and endorsed by Republicans and conservative think tanks? Norman Ornstein, of the conservative think tank The American Enterprise, writes:

“The Democrats’ health-reform plan includes no public option and relies on managed competition through exchanges set up much like those for federal employees. The individual mandate in the plan sprang from a Heritage Foundation idea that was endorsed years ago by a range of conservatives and provided the backbone of the Massachusetts plan that was crafted and, until recently, heartily defended by Mitt Romney. It would be fair to describe the new act as Romneycare crossed with the managed-competition bill proposed in 1994 by Republican Sens. John Chafee, David Durenberger, Charles Grassley and Bob Dole — in other words, as a moderate Republican plan.”

So why have Republicans opposed Obamacare so vehemently? Well, there are two reasons. First, the Republican Party has drifted far more to the right than it was in 1994 (more on that later). Second, opposition and obstructionism are simply part of the Republican strategy to win in 2012. Vocal and persistent opposition (not to mention some outright lying) have proven to be effective tactics in garnering more widespread opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Why have Republicans been so obstructionist? For political reasons, of course. In this presidential election, we’ve heard Republicans claim that the President isn’t willing to work across the aisle. But it’s hard to work with those across the aisle when all you ever hear from them is a loud, resounding “no!” When you examine the President’s record, he’s been largely moderate throughout his first term. The public option in healthcare reform? Gone. Bush tax cuts? Extended. PATRIOT Act? Key provisions extended. Obama’s Cabinet? Two members are Republicans (Ray LaHood and Robert Gates). There’d be a third Republican (Judd Gregg) if he didn’t withdraw his name from consideration. And the list goes on.

As time as passed, the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right (if you refute this, just see what the people at Republicans for Obama have to say about it). While it’s true that both parties have moved more toward their respective political poles, we’ve seen the Republicans drift much more than the Democrats have (Tea Party, anyone?). Given this party drift, of course a moderate Obama is going to look far-left in comparison to Republicans, who have gone so far to the right that even their golden boy Reagan wouldn’t stand a chance.

When the President has moved to the center to compromise, the GOP has moved to the right.

This appears to have been the Republican strategy since 2009: Drag your heels, kick your feet, and oppose every policy proposal offered by Democrats–even ones that include Republican amendments. By doing so, a number of things were accomplished. First, Republicans were effective at portraying themselves as victims when they were in the minority–they made it appear as if Democrats were ramming legislation through without regard for Republican opinion (despite the fact that the President repeatedly told Republicans he was willing to listen to their ideas). Second, Republicans have portrayed Democrats as entirely partisan. We’ve heard Republican pundits proclaim that “the legislation didn’t receive ONE Republican vote!” Without any Republican support, of course the legislation is going to look partisan–of course Democrats are going to look like they have no regard for Republican opinion. Even though Republicans may have truly opposed some of this legislation, what are the odds that none of it would receive at least some of their support?

When you head to the ballot box this November, remember that the actions taken by Republicans over the last three years have been part of a calculated political strategy designed to get your vote. As evidenced by the 2010 midterm elections, this strategy has worked. But in the last two years, it seems as though Americans have begun to see through Republican tactics–President Obama is poised to win reelection, Democrats will keep the Senate, and they’ll weaken the Republican majority in the House. I must admit, it was a masterful strategy–a “win-win” situation. Not only have Republicans portrayed Obama as an extremist, they’ve also successfully blocked a number of policies, thus making the President look ineffective. Many have bought into the nonsense peddled by the GOP over the last three years, and many (such as myself) see right through it. If you truly believe that the President is a far-left radical who exhibits no signs of bipartisanship, just remember this: You’re one of the many who have been duped by the Republican Party.


One comment

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