Last Tuesday voters placed the House of Representatives under new management and put the fear of God into what remains, temporarily, a Democrat Senate. Now it’s time for a resuscitated GOP to deliver.
But before the Republicans get to work, they need to — as we say here in the South — get their mind right and understand what actually happened.
At first glance the pickup of 60 House seats (as this is written) looks like an overwhelming endorsement of the GOP, since it tops the total of seats captured in the anti–Clinton wave of 1994.
Appearances are deceiving in this case. Just prior to Tuesday’s election a poll of voters who favored a Republican–controlled House was released.
A total of 48 percent of those voters viewed their choice as a positive vote for Republicans, but 45 percent said their vote was not a vote for the GOP, but rather a negative vote against Obama and the Democrats. It should be glaringly obvious to House leaders that a party unable generate a majority of supporters among its own voters, is a party that is on probation.
Last Tuesday’s result was not a Republican victory, it was a conservative victory and Republicans just happened to be the least worst choice available.
A divided legislative branch, combined with internal and external obstacles, makes pleasing this coalition of the grumpy very difficult. If Republican leadership in the House stays the same, temporizers and “realists” may dilute this conservative triumph by chasing “bi–partisanship” — a political unicorn that is a favorite of the mainstream media because it only serves to make Republicans govern more like Democrats.
Voters in 2008 bought into “Change” and they got it, as H. L. Mencken used to say, good and hard. Suffering a bad case of buyer’s remorse, 2010 voters charged into the Returns department and demanded an exchange. If they don’t get it, chances are Tea party voters will take their business elsewhere in the form of a third party and Republicans will be finished.
Oh, the party per se will still exist. GOP politicians will continue to go on K–Street fact–finding missions to Hawaii, but the days of control will be over. The departure of the Tea party voters and other independents will split the conservative vote and return leftist Dems to power.
The external obstacle is Obama and how he responds to this electoral rebuke. Obama could respond like Bill Clinton did in 1994 and govern from the center of the political spectrum — adopting some GOP ideas and some Democrat ideas. More likely he will attempt to become a Hyde Park Harry Truman and run against a “do nothing” Congress that is thwarting his goal of a better America.
If the story of the next Congress is focused on what Obama is doing under trying circumstances then Republicans have already lost. Instead the story must be House Republicans are attempting to change the course of the nation and how Obama is blocking the people’s will.
So what should victorious House Republicans do? Combine symbolism with legislation. Bills in the House are numbered according to when they are introduced. GOP leadership should reserve the first 10 bills for legislation that responds to the conservative uprising.
House Bill 1 should be the repeal of Obamacare. There will be great opposition to this bill and the media will pressure Republicans to “reach across the aisle” and work with Democrats. But a majority of the public wants Obamacare repealed and government reduced, not expanded. Obamacare repeal should be a litmus test for conservative voters. If the House GOP leadership craters here, conservatives have been betrayed.
House Bill 2 should be the extension of the Bush tax cuts (assuming the lame duck session of Congress does not approve this) and so forth. Work fast and send these bills to the Democrat–controlled Senate at lightening speed.
Then Obama and his Democrat henchmen are in the position of responding to positive Republican initiatives. There may even be enough frightened Democrat Senators to pass the tax cuts, which will then go to the White House for a probable Obama veto.
The goal of the GOP leadership should be to turn Obama from Mr. Hope into Dr. Nope who is leading a cabal of obstructionist Democrats. Then in 2012 voters can finish the job by defeating Obama and electing more conservative senators.
Of course by working to transform Obama into an oval office Dr. No I realize we run the risk of reinforcing the 18 percent of the populace who believe the president is a Muslim, with a new group who will believe he is an evil Chinese mastermind who wants to kill 007.
But it’s a risk worth taking.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.