If the polls are to be believed, the Republicans are more likely than not going to regain control of the Senate next year. Probably, they will increase their margin of control in the House. These are good things, I guess, in the sense that all elected Democrats are pro-abortion and removing one from power is always a net positive. So a week from Tuesday I will go out and cast my vote for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and will do so without much complaint.
But that’s an idiomatic reason that appeals only to me and the relatively small slice of America who thinks like I do on that issue. With respect to the vast majority of the rest of America, I’m at a loss as to what benefit they are supposed to receive from a Republican victory on election day.
This Republican failure of messaging is astonishing and dismaying to me. Democrats, and President Obama in particular, are unpopular and the American public dislikes almost everything they have done since taking power. The Republicans seem content to rest on the sizzling platform of not being the Democrats and ride this to a marginal victory. The one actual policy position they are unified on – repealing Obamacare – remains implausible while Obama himself occupies the White House.
Republicans could be poised to make even bigger gains a week from Tuesday, if they could actually articulate a positive vision about something – anything – that America could be excited about. But instead, they are so scared to make a mistake by sticking their neck out on anything that they are hiding in foxholes and hoping the wave carries them over the top into control – however narrow – presumably so the lobbyists will once again view them with more favor.
Republicans are hoping for a victory on par with 1994 and they may get one that is close, at least in terms of numbers of seats won. But this victory, if it is achieved, will almost definitely be comparatively hollow, and it is their own fault. In 1994, the country was likewise sick of the Democrats, but the Republicans didn’t just run on being sick of the Democrats. They ran on a positive platform of easily articulable reforms that enjoyed broad bipartisan support. When they rode to power they had a convincing reason for Bill Clinton to work with them, because it was clear that the country had voted at least in some measure in support of what the Republicans stood for (other than not being allies of Bill Clinton). The Republicans, if they win, will have no similar claim to popular referendum. The one issue on which they have such a claim – Obamacare – Obama will continue to veto any changes to until he leaves office.
The Republicans have not run aggressively or visibly on any visible package of reform that will fix the structural problems that beset this country. And if they attempt to enact them after taking office, Obama will be able to effectively resist them, with the aid of the press, as a bait and switch or as “surprise extremism.”
As a result, the bottom line we can expect from a Republican victory on election day in terms of actual, measurable results can best be described as “very little.” Definitely a new class of beneficiary will be the recipient of Congress’ crony capitalism. But otherwise it is not reasonable to expect that much will change. Which, frankly, is probably what McConnell and Boehner are most comfortable with.
I am not trying to convince anyone to not vote for Republican candidates on election day. As I said, they’re almost always better than the alternative. But it’s long past time for us to realize that the leaders we have right now are not very good at governing, messaging, or taking measurable steps to improve America. And until they are replaced, through one mechanism or another, this cycle seems likely to replace itself.