Friday, February 27, 2009

A Trapped GOP

I suppose that if I were a really, really nice person I'd have some empathy for the GOP - like I said, if. As it is in actuality, rather than hypothetically, that I'm perfectly willing to watch them drown in their toxic swill I still don't mind looking at their situation. Despite contrary evidence there are Republicans who can think. I've known some, and that's not the same thing as saying I've seen flying saucers and big foot.

I realize that to many of us the tactic of more and more of what they've spouted for years seems particularly stupid, oh hell, is stupid - but I believe there are some actual reasons for it. House members have to start running for re-election the day after they're elected. It is just a function of the 2 year cycle and asserting that you're fit to represent half a million people that you have to take advantage of that perch you've attained because there are sharks circling. Those sharks (if they're serious) start very early if somewhat out of view putting together connections and good feelings. That House member has a bit of earned media by virtue of being a member of that 435 member club, that earned media can only be increased by using it. The Congressional District's press will pay some attention naturally, but that attention will increase with any national notice. This is important for keeping yourself alive in the minds of the voters and particularly the donors. Congressional Districts tend to be a bit more homogeneous than states so a bit hotter rhetoric can work.

Senators face the somewhat more daunting prospect of representing entire states and a year like 2010 poses the real problem of not being a Presidential election with its increased interest. This means ordinarily that the biggest turn out will be the bases, for a CD not such a bad prospect, but for a Senator in a state that is anything like competitive your base had better be fired up. In this case the Senator doesn't have the 'advantage' of having just run 2 years before and having essentially a non-stop campaign, six years is just too long to sustain such a thing. What that does mean is that starting two years ahead isn't rushing matters, it is the time to make use of that earned media for the same ends a House member would. Sometimes in politics two years is quite awhile, and six years can be an eternity. Republican House members got whacked 2 years ago, the 2010 Senators haven't faced voters since GWB won his second term with fear mongering. Politically things have changed a bit. Quite a bit.

The House guys are going to stick with what let them stay in office in 2008, they have no incentive to do things differently and real risks for doing it. Senators are in a bit different situation, four years ago their President got re-elected but what worked then is real questionable today in the face of the fallout of that Administration. Despite the blood letting of 06 and 08 there are a lot more House Republicans than Senators and they're not going to be very willing to give up what worked in 08. The Senators are going to get dragged along and face a statewide electorate they last campaigned to on GWB's coat tails. This presents some very real difficulties and the weapons they have are the same one their House counterparts have. So, it may be a reality for House folks to have to start running two years ahead, but for Senators it just got very important.

Here's where the abject stupidity of running on more of the same comes in. The House is going to do it and the Senators absolutely have to make up ground lost in the last four years. Both of these groups have to do this in the face of most of them displaying craven behavior in the face of the mounting failures of GWB and the very real problem of an Obama. Democrats have right along had some good practitioners of rhetoric with national popularity, but this Obama guy is starting out like the gold standard of that. Sen Gordon Smith who hadn't done anything actually obnoxious tried to clip off a piece of that for himself and it narrowly failed which sort of proves that isn't a winning strategy. It presents voters with a kind of contradictory choice, choose me because I'm a bit like this popular guy or choose the guy who is a lot like him.

The Republican Party has had the snot beaten out of them over the last four years and they're one vote from losing a Party filibuster vote. The House is just plain out of reach barring something extraordinary and losing that filibuster edge is more than possible, it is likely. Being a bit like Obama is not going to cut it for the Senators, they have to bet on his failure. They have to represent the failures manifested in 08 as a failing not due to their ideology but its misapplication. It is already far too late to make sea changes and meet the 2010 reckoning.

The Republican Party absolutely must hang onto the Religionists, it is the one loyalty that comes cheap, some fundie rhetoric will do in the face of the impossibility of any legislative power to enact any of it. Their problem lies with the financial wing, these folks aren't cheaply purchased. Some of these are entirely businessman pragmatic enough to already be bolting, they don't have an ideological connection - they have a business. In the face of a recessionary bankruptcy they just really don't give a damn about supply side economics, that was just convenient to making a lot of money. The only way they're going to be there in 2010 is if Obama fails and they're still taking huge hits.

The ones who have won under Bush and still have their winnings do care about capital gains taxes and being taxed at 39% rather than 35% because their level of wealth insulates them from whatever crash is coming and, in fact, they stand to do very well out of it. This country is turning into a buyer's market, the only difficulty is having money to do it with. This means that capital gains taxes are going to turn into a very real issue for the profiteers. This is a dirty little secret of the Republican Party, but they do have to address it for those concerned. This is why 40% of the stimulus being tax cuts wasn't what they wanted, they're the wrong tax cuts.

There is no political up side to playing nicely with Democrats, it is now 20 months until the 2010 vote. The only Republicans with an upside to cooperating are those who a virtually guaranteed to lose their seats otherwise. Their Republican counterparts will speak ill of them for it and may even try to Primary them, but their seats are lost and they know it. The Republicans with nothing to lose for four or six years might want to cooperate but their brethren can't afford for them to do so. If you're wondering where the national interest gets served in this behavior, it is simply immaterial.

The edge Democrats hold means that they will be able to do whatever they want if it has a whiff of moderation to it. The Republicans are exempted from having to consider the national interest over political ends because they cannot stop what is happening. This is a political advantage of sorts in that they will suffer no blame for failure. The couple who cooperate may be able to hold on because Obama succeeds and some are safe regardless but a bunch of Senate seats are flatly gone if Obama succeeds. If a revision of Republican politics is going to occur it will be in the wake of a disastrous 2010 election.

The mathematics of it are clear, every two years one third of the Senate is up for election and the nearly 2 year lead in lays on constraints. A Senate bloodbath in 2010 with a Presidential election in two years would make the party as a whole more amenable to changing. By that the 06 Senate survivors will be having to run, the 04 bunch will either be safe or gone and the House will be just what it is - narrow interest district survivors. This really makes the current speculation about leading Presidential election figures pretty meaningless. If the Democrat policies are succeeding in 2010 all of today's figures become irrelevant.

So Republicans banking on Democratic failure is a matter of doing what it is they have to do. The GOP is currently in a trap constructed over the last 30 years and cemented over the last eight - expect no change over this cycle.


Phillip said...

First off I'm gonna tell you that I have read only two of your posts. Next, I must say that I find your minirants engaging and thoughtful. Get behind that barrel and keep firin'.

Chuck Butcher said...

Thanks Phillip,
Feel free to expand your reading.