Republicans are hatching a political comeback by dusting off a strategic playbook written nearly two decades ago.
Its themes: Unite against Democrats' economic policy, block and counter health care reform and tar them with spending scandals.
Those represent the political trifecta that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich bet on in 1994 to produce a historic Republican takeover of Congress.
Now, some Republicans believe President Barack Obama's one-two push on the economy and health care reform is setting the stage for a new round of significant gains, if not a total takeover.
Stan Greenberg noted, "We are in a different game, and they are playing by the old rules."
-- STEVE BENENAfter two successive electoral thrashings, after being told by the voters in 2006 and 2008 that they were unfit to govern, the minority Republicans have few potent weapons left in their arsenal. Whipping up hysteria is one of them.
Right now, for instance, they’re going bonkers over the U.S. Census, which is soon slated to begin its decennial mission of counting every American. The census might not strike you as being a particularly sexy issue, but inside the Washington hothouse, the census always bestirs the partisan juices. Despite Barack Obama’s inaugural plea that politicians should put aside "childish things," there remains an overpowering urge to rant in the sandbox.
-- DICK POLMAN
I'm transfixed by the sudden competition among Republican governors to reject stimulus money. First Bobby Jindal decided his state didn't need the boost in unemployment benefits. Then Mark Sanford tossed out $42 million in funding for green buildings demonstrating his principled objection to both construction jobs and energy efficiency. "I just hope they give me their funding," said Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jindal and Sanford, of course, are running for president. But this is a very particular theory of the Republican primaries. They don't expect to be judged on whether they're successful governors. They expect to be judged on ideological purity. And the point they're making is that when the two conflict, they will side with ideology. The fact that rejecting the funds is obviously bad for the state is also why it's such a good political move: It shows they are ideologues rather than pragmatists. When you're dealing with a party that still thinks tax cuts raise revenues, that's an important point to prove.
-- EZRA KLEIN
In dueling interviews, we saw one governor -- Bobby Jindal -- rooted mostly in a conservative ideology that plays very well in the South and with the base, but not in some other parts of the country and not with many swing voters. "I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here. I don't think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money," Jindal said. "I think the best thing they could've done, for example, was to cut taxes on things like capital gains, the lower tax brackets, to get the private sector spending again." And we saw another governor -- Charlie Crist -- rooted in what he claims is pragmatism in a key presidential battleground state. "I'm a Florida Republican. And in the Florida way, we work together in a bipartisan fashion to do what's right for the people. That's really what it's all about," he said. This has become perhaps the key question for the Republican Party: In which direction does it want to go? The GOP in the short term will divide on this question: Is the government more of a problem or more of a problem-solver?
A classic debate over the years has been whether materialism or ideology provides a more accurate explanation of historical events. For instance, was the Cold War about imperialist conquest for resources? Or did the revolutionary ideology of both the US and Soviet Union play a more important role in describing events? . . .
Generally speaking, I subscribe to a more materialist worldview -- to me, money and structural forces can explain most things. It’s not a pure either/or choice -- but for me, the balance has always tilted away from ideological explanations.
The modern GOP, however, is really challenging that worldview these days. It's hard to see the spectacle of cash-starved governors refusing money for their constituents as anything other than ideology gone mad.
I've posted about [Alan] Keyes's remarks before but the full text of what he's saying is truly disturbing. He calls Obama an "abomination." He says that "we have to stop him" or the US will cease to exist. He says that the military should think about not obeying their commander-in-chief because he is not rightly the president of the United States. It seems important to me that responsible, leading members of the Republican Party, if there are any left, need to disown these remarks. The consequences of letting them stand are quite disturbing.