The Elephant in the Room – If the Republican Party and their incumbents don’t get their act together soon, they will have booted an almost guaranteed slam dunk to take back the White House and a Senatorial majority to go along with their Congressional majority. If not, they stand to be back in the minority position in those two branches of government.
Let’s face it, Obama has had an up and down Presidency to date with two “can’t win” wars, an economic meltdown, huge unemployment, a raging Healthcare debate and now a budget battle. His policies have been lukewarm at best and even the members of his own party have been a tad upset with him from time to time. And, the Republicans have been relentless in their criticism. His Presidency spawned the Tea Party Movement and made a TV celebrity out of Glenn Beck.
So, it would appear that Republicans could really clean up this next presidential election cycle. But they won’t. And here’s why.
1. The War on the Middle Class and the Poor – Starting as soon as they won a majority in Congress, the Republicans went right after the middle class to reward their buddies, the wealthiest Americans by blackmailing Obama to extend the Bush Era Tax cuts. They achieved this with a minimum amount of spilled blood because after all, the wealthiest Americans also contribute to the Democratic Party as well. The disparity between rich and poor is greater than ever and everyone knows it.
In addition, every budget proposal put forth from the Republicans and their wunderkind, Eric Cantor, has the bulk of the cuts coming from social programs such as: Medicare, Social Security and schools. These programs largely benefit the lower economic rung of the American ladder. While most agree that the largest share of our budget needs a good dose of belt tightening, Republicans didn’t bother with the other large entitlement programs like corporate welfare and tax breaks, oil and gas subsidies, defense spending and other corporate giveaway programs. While all this pleases the Tea Partyers, it will not sit well with a majority of Americans who vote; namely middle and lower class Americans who stand to lose much if programs are tampered with. Not saying it’s right or wrong, but people always vote their own interests.
2. Moral and Social Issues – I was listening to Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming and co-chair of the White House panel on deficit reduction the other day. He came out strongly against those in the Republican Party he called “homophobes.” He was also sharply critical of Republican’s obsession with abortion. He said, “I don’t know anybody running around with a sign that says ‘have an abortion, they’re wonderful.’ They’re hideous. But they’re a deeply intimate and personal decision and I don’t think men legislators should even vote on the issue.” (Washington Post Online) What he is saying in essence is that Americans are tired of these issues. They want to move on. Social equality is more important than ever and Americans are tired of the rhetoric against Gays and against women who have abortions. If Republican candidates continue to express their views on these issues in the wrong way, while they may please the base, they will turn off many others. The same goes for the Birther movement. Get over it! Obama was born in Hawaii. Stop kicking the dead horse. Donald!
3. Too many contenders – Right now, it seems about half the Republican Party is running for President or thinking about it. This can be problematic as the field is fleshed out and they do battle with each other on the various issues. As the field narrows, those remaining might be construed as mean and vicious as they knock out their opponents. In the case of opportunists such as: Donald Trump, polarizing figures such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, more people can be turned off than excited to vote for them. After all, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, so a large portion of those have to feel strongly enough for one of the candidates and enough against Obama to cross over with their vote. A Republican nominee has to span the right-leaning tea partyers as well as middle of the road and left leaning Dems and Independents, which might prove to be a bridge too far. There are no Ronald Reagans among the crop of contenders. Unless the economy is still pretty bad, the unemployment rate up and the budget problems still unresolved, Obama wins. Which brings me to:
4. The Economy improves – If the economy improves and the jobless rate goes down, the Republicans don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to win. Unless they can figure out how to take credit for it and not allow the President to do so. However, as with number 1 on my list looming large, they will have a problem. If the overall economy improves and the plight of middle and poorer classes not improve to any great extent, they still lose.
So my sense of the situation is that the current Republican message loses a lot of steam outside of its own base. The Tea Party is forcing it more and more to the right while the country by and large is in the middle. Most elections are won for two reasons: The current situation at hand is bad and it is the incumbent person or party who is at fault. If those conditions still exist, the Republicans have a chance. If they can tone down the message, their chance improves. If they can throw a bone to the middle class, they can win. Otherwise, they lose it all. Yes, they’ll get Utah’s votes, no matter what. But the rest will be up for grabs.