The Day After
It is November 3rd and the elction results are in. The Republicans have, as expected, taken the House and Democrats maintain a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but it was a lot closer than expected as some Republican losing candidates are holding out hope for absentee ballot counts. The pundits have had their say. Keith Olberman’s head spontaneously combusts on live television giving MSNBC a brief boost in the ratings. Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz will blame George Bush for Olberman’s exploding head. Rick Sanchez over at CNN will devote a whole week of lists to why Republicans won the House and why Olberman’s head exploded while Rush Limbaugh will deliver his “I told you so, I told you so” diatribe for at least three weeks as he celebrates with Oxycontin. The political brain trust at the White House have convened in a midnight vigil and contemplation of what went wrong so fast. Someone mentions something about Scott Brown and this guy named Chris Christie, but Obama quickly dismisses them. He reminds his political staffers that he was handed a mandate by the voters, not these Republican nobodies like Scott and Christie. He, after all, is the Chosen One. He rallies the troops that he will persist in his agenda, Constitution be damned. He, after all, is a Constitutional scholar and knows better. Furthermore, his Harvard Law School upbringing makes his views even more right whether 68% of Americans disagree with him or not. He is not going to make the mistake Bill Clinton made and move to the center in the wake of the 1994 midterm results. Besides- look what the Republicans did to Clinton. They impeached his ass. Obama will not run the risk of having Republicans research things like his birth certificate or violating Federal law by interfering in the Pennsylvania and/or Colorado primaries. Speaking of Clinton, he’ll be smirking about Hillary’s chances in 2012. PUMAs are looking better all the time.
More importantly, while the Democrats sit licking thier wounds in disbelief, Republicans cannot sit back and rest on their laurels. This election will not be about handing the Republican Party a mandate to govern, but a stern lesson that if those in power don’t adhere to the will of the people, they will face voter wrath in 2012. I remember one thing about the aftermath of the 2004 election. In his first address to the press in the Rose Garden after defeating John Kerry, George W. Bush said that he had a mandate to govern and that he was going to use his political capital to push his agenda. Ouch! That type of attitude and sentiment needs to be avoided by Republicans at all levels of leadership. A message was sent, not a mandate granted. Approaching the victory and responsibility with graciousness and humility rather than swagger should be the preferred mindset in Washington.
Then Congress can set out to use the next two years to roll back many of the more grievous abuses of the Obama Administration thus far. They can start with energy policy and legislatively prevent the EPA from controlling carbon dioxide. Denying funding for Obamacare is another priority since Republicans in the Housewill hold the power of the purse strings. They can attempt total repeal knowing it will not pass a Presidential veto, but it may re-open a wound within the Democratic Party they do not want to re-visit. It would keep an unpopular law front and center in the minds of voters come 2012. The new Republican Congress in Washington needs to demonstrate that they got the message, that they are acting on the will of the people. Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America is a good starting point. I would argue against the hinted-at mass commitee investigations of the Obama White House- except in select cases like their interference in the Pennsylvania and Colorado primaries. This has the potential to turn off voters. All those “controversies” can be re-visited when Obama is retired in 2012.
Very important to this initial phase is committee assignments. Unlike the Obama White House who appoints liberal, academic eggheads with no practical experience in the areas they administer, committee assignments and leadership positions should be divvied out to those Representatives intimately familiar with the subject matter of the committee. A Congressman in Iowa or Kansas is more knowledgeable, for example, of agricultural policy than a Representative from an urban or industrial area. Furthermore, everything must be phrased in terms of the economy. Social issues were not a factor in the elections. However, that is not to say that firm beliefs regarding social issues need be abandoned. Take the case of stem cell research. Many on the left and some on the right talk incessantly about the medical promises of stem cell research and the number of medical conditions that can be alleviated, if not cured. If that were so true, then biomedical and pharmaceutical companies would be expending their own money on research. There would be no need for Federal funding of stem cell research based on free market principles. Likewise for electric cars and exotic batteries, biofuel, wind or solar power, etc. By using the over-arching policy of the free market- not laissez faire capitalism per se- to justify positions, the message is principled and more in line with the mood of the electorate. In short, committee assignments need not be based on the seniority system per se, but on a litmus test of adherence to limited government principles.
Next, the Republicans need to prepare for 2012. A good first step would be to replace Michael Steele as RNC chairman and appoint someone with executive experience who is not a lightning rod. Quite frankly, everytime I have heard or watched a Steele interview, I cringe. Secondly, in 2012 of the 33 Senate seats up for re-election, 23 of them are held by Democrats. Perhaps of the 10 Republican seats, there will be competition in Maine (Olympia Snowe), Massachusetts (despite Brown’s personal popularity, it is still a deep blue state), Nevada (John Ensign and his ethical problems), and Texas (Kay Bailey Hutchison). Assuming Republicans lose two of those seats for whatever reason, they can more than be offset by Republican gains elsewhere. Possible targets are Diane Feinstein in California, Bill Nelson (Florida), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bob Casey (Pennsylvania). Republicans need to start looking for and grooming candidates in these targeted states on November 3rd, 2010. And the same goes for a potential Presidential opponent to Obama in 2012. The weeding out process starts the same day. Personal note: I would love to see Barack Obama debate Chris Christie, but it ain’t happening folks. Personal note #2: And this will certainly alienate many, but I would really hate to see Barack Obama debate Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, that might happen, folks.
Finally, there is debate within the Republican Party about “enlarging the tent.” I am not advocating that Republicans try to draw in ethnic groups or any other targeted demographic per se. By enlarging the tent, I am referring to winning back those who drifted away from the Republican Party in the recent past. This can be achieved through policy. Not too long in our political past, doctors and health care professionals identified more with the GOP, but as campaign contributions from that sector indicate, that support has drifted to the Democrats in recent years. By encouraging free market based innovation in the health care sector and tort reform, some of these people can be won back. Tort reform particularly, although no panacea to reigning in health care costs, is a win-win situation for Republicans. Face it, Republicans are never going to win the big money from the legal profession that Democrats currently enjoy. Why not pit the legal profession against the rest of America in the name of some health care reform? Sort of like pitting the unions against the electorate in New Jersey when it came to pension and educational reforms. We can win other professionals back through immigration reform that does not address “comprehensiveness” or “border security first” principles. Today, our immigration laws are decidedly slanted towards family reunification. This is opposite the better immigration policies of places like Canada and Australia. There, immigration is skills-based. While Obama only has it half right that technology will be what defines the American economy of tomorrow, his policies pander to ethnic minorities and openly welcome low-skilled, illegal immigrants. We need to encourage foreigners to emigrate to this country to fill the need for high-skilled positions. This would put Republican immigration policy on a direct collision course with those of the Democrats and the unions. Another area that will rankle the Democrats and unions is the negotiation of free trade agreements to open new markets for American goods which would create jobs in most areas. These do not have to be grand schemes like GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. They should be bilateral agreements. Additionally, bilateral agreements are more in keeping with our Constitutional principles rather than the nonsense that today defines our foreign policy- multinational agreements and do-nothing organizations (like the United Nations). And unions need to be cut out of the discussion. In case Democrats haven’t noticed, despite their reveling in the alleged establishment-Tea Party rift in the Republican Party, unions are in retreat. They play a role only in Democratic politics. In short, they are to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party is to the Republican Party. The difference is that more Americans identify with the Tea Party than they do with unions. Tax simplification is another no-brainer that would settle the markets, instill some fairness, decrease the associated bureaucracy, and allow businesses a stable environment to invest in hiring. Finally, allowing Title I portability when it comes to educational choice for parents at the K-12 level- a casualty of NCLB- should be allowed. This would put Republican policies on a direct collision course with Democrats and the teacher unions. If Republicans don’t know how to handle teacher unions and fear them, then they should consult Chris Christie. In short, by pressing a free and fair market agenda that shrinks the scope and power of the Federal government, avoiding the opening of old wounds of the cultural wars and social issues by framing the discussion in economics, and keeping the Democratic Party on the defensive by forcing them to take politically risky stands wherever possible (but not through political grandstanding), the 50-year dawing of the age of the Democrat envisioned by James Carville will end 48 years prematurely. Ending note: James Carville will be captured sometime in December 2010 and returned to Area 51.