Will the Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

By Tim Dunkinhttp://www.renewamerica.com/columns/dunkin/090727

I can't help but imagine that it's tough being a Republican on Capitol Hill these days. After losing two elections in a row, the GOP found itself below 200 members in the House for the first time since 1994. In the Senate, the GOP has been reduced once again to super-minority status. A good deal of acrimonious commentary has been written back and forth within the conservative punditariat as to why this happened, but regardless, the GOP finds itself in the unenviable position of being not only a minority Party, but a completely powerless minority Party at that.

I happen to be one of those who think that the GOP lost the past two elections because it got away from its basic, foundational principles — principles that are represented by both fiscal and social conservatism. In short, the GOP drifted too far to the center and was punished by the voters for it. The GOP took its base and conservative-leaning independents for granted, and they did not come out in the numbers needed this time around to put McCain over the top. Eight years of massive social spending, prescription drug programs, No Child Left Behind, mounting deficits, etc. etc. destroyed the Republican Party's reputation for fiscal responsibility. By driving off a portion of its core of most committed voters, the GOP sealed its own fate in 2008. If nothing else, we would hope that the Republican Party learned an important lesson from all of this.

The evidence is readily available to substantiate this reasoning. After all, we can all see the results from last November's election — while McCain (the centrist) lost, socially conservative ballot initiatives on issues ranging from gay marriage to affirmative action to adoption by unmarried parents (understood to be about gays as well) won handily all across the country, even in neon Blue states like California. Poll after poll after poll taken since last November show increasing numbers of Americans self-identifying as conservative, supporting pro-life positions, opposing Obama's economic policies across the board, and supporting common sense measures to end illegal immigration. The further Obama goes with his Marxist agenda of government nationalization of industry, increased taxation via Cap-and-Tax, and socializing our health care system, the lower his approval ratings drop.

None of this is a surprise — Obama didn't win the election so much because the majority of people in this country really, really fell in love with socialism and thought it'd be great to go for it with both barrels blazing. Obama won for two reasons. One, he was able to deceptively portray himself a fiscal moderate-conservative, promising tax cuts to "95% of all Americans" and streamlining wasteful government spending — something which McCain, who had poo-pooed tax cuts until around the September before the election when he finally realized that the issue plays well, was unable to parry. Secondly, many people just didn't like McCain. He didn't appeal to crossover voters, and he especially didn't appeal to the conservative base and likeminded independents who wanted less government and a stronger country. Post-election analyses seem to suggest that McCain actually drove off white voters — who tend to be the most conservative, and who still make up the large majority — especially in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he could have really used them.

The short and simple interpretation of the data that we have on hand is that the majority of the people in this nation don't want the left-wing agenda. They don't want the government picking their pockets. They don't want government destroying economic recovery. They don't want the government facilitating the left-wing in imposing its radical social agenda onto us. They don't want the government sliding in yet another tax under the radar, using the spurious notion of "man-made global warming" as an excuse. They don't want the government destroying the health care system so that we have to ration care and so that our senior citizens will be denied the care that they disproportionately need.

Especially the last. By even bringing up the issue of socializing health care and establishing a "single-payer" system where health care resources suddenly become a much scarcer commodity overall, the Democrats and Obama are playing with political fire. Lest we forget, HillaryCare was one of the catalysts that gave the Republicans control of both houses of Congress in 1994. We're already seeing opposition to the bill before Congress grow to such levels that support for it will be political suicide for many "Blue Dog" Democrats — and the bill's barely two weeks old. The polls already show that a majority are against this health care "reform." The longer the legislative process takes, the more people will read this bill, learn what it contains, and start hammering their Congressmen to vote "Nay" on it.

But this is where the typical Republican tin ear towards what is politically best for themselves — and us — could come into play. See, the Republicans in Congress, especially in the Senate, have a problem with maintaining control over their own Party. There are too many Republicans who like to play the "go-along-to-get-along" game, though the only place they typically go with the Democrats is over a barrel. Too many GOP elected officials pay far too much attention to what a hostile mainstream media says, and not enough to what their own base and to what the American people are saying. If they do this with respect to the health care bill before Congress, they will destroy a golden opportunity to get back into the good graces of the voters.

As Voice of America reports, Kent Conrad, the Democrat from North Dakota who chairs the Senate Budgetary Committee, has publicly admitted that the President's Party does not have the votes needed to clear this bill through the Senate, despite holding a 60-seat supermajority. To pass it, they are acknowledging that they will need votes from the Republican minority. What does this mean? It means that there is at least one clown-car load of Democrats in the Senate who realize this bill is a loser, and who aren't voting for it. It also means that — yet again — the Democrat leadership is hoping that enough Republican dupes will go along with the bill to save their bacon, as has already happened a number of times this session.

Politically speaking, that would be a tremendously bad thing for the Republican leadership to allow to happen. The Republican Party already has a (well-earned) "branding" problem that makes the public skeptical of its claims to fiscal responsibility. Being involved in passing a bill that will both socialize as well as destroy the best health care system in the world would not do anything to improve that image. Helping ObamaCare to become a reality would also give the Democrats impeccable political cover. After all, four years down the road when people are on three-year waiting lists to get heart surgery and the average life expectancy has dropped to the high 60s because senior citizens can't get the care they need, why would the voters punish the Democrats specifically when it was Republicans who also helped to make the blasted thing a reality in the first place? Rather than blaming the Democrats and voting for the Republicans, voters will just despise both parties, but then vote their normal patterns.

The GOP needs to learn that you don't earn political capital just because voters hate the other guy. You need to present a clear alternative and a clear program that makes you the attractive alternative. In today's political climate, this should be a no-brainer for the GOP. Even if the Party won't do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, they should at least do it because it's politically advantageous for them to do so. But it won't happen unless the GOP leadership can get a handle on folks like Senators Collins, Snowe, Murkowski, and other Senate GOP "moderates." They cannot let a few "mavericks" continue to destroy the image of the Party in the eyes of the people at large. This upcoming health care "reform" bill, so despised by the actual American people, will be a very important "make or break" opportunity for the GOP to show that it has turned from its wicked ways and gotten back onto the strait path of smaller government and fiscal responsibility.

© Tim Dunkin