It has been a few years since I played chess, and quite a few more since I played any serious game of it, but I do remember most of the fundamentals including a simple tactic calling forking. In this maneuver, you move one of your pieces so it simultaneously threatens two (or more) of your opponents pieces. The goal is not to necessarily capture the more powerful of the two opposition pieces, but two force your opponent into making a choice of the lesser of two evils – save one piece but sacrifice the other. One of the ultimate strategies behind this tactic is to slowly winnow away your opponent’s strength.
Republicans in Congress should be using this tactic in the new session. The two opposing pieces are Obama’s (and the Democrats’) legislation and any blue dog Democrat (one from a conservative district or state). Obviously Obama has enough Democrats in the House and Senate to pass any legislation that he chooses. With the exception of filibusters Republicans cannot block anything without help from Democrats, but they can and should force blue dogs to vote for liberal legislation that is unpopular in their home districts. This, in turn, should whittle down the blue dog popularity and provide future Republican opponents campaign material.
Of course, Obama and the Democrats have their own tactics of which Republicans need to be aware. Obama’s main tactic is the play on ‘bipartisanship’. He does not need a single Republican vote to pass his agenda. He is only using this to try to push Republicans in a corner. (If he really cared about bipartisanship he would not be pushing the “I won” meme.) Some of the mindless swing voters are easily distracted by the shiny bauble of bipartisanship. No doubt that Obama’s lap dogs in the press will charge any Republican voting against Obama’s legislation as being insufficiently bipartisan. “Look at those mean Republicans who are not willing to play ball and roll over at Obama’s commands.” Unfortunately, voting for Democratic legislation only means eroding further support from the conservative base. Let’s face it, why vote for a Republican who is voting 98% Democrat anyway? They should either change parties or change their last name to Schwarzenegger. Republican can counter that either the legislation would have passed without their support, or – when they are joined by Democrats – that their vote in opposition is bipartisan. We must also remember that the press is not our friend. For every dollar Democrats spend on marketing, Republicans should be spending at least two.
One key to using the forking tactic is to choose your battle carefully. We should not oppose bills for the simple sake of opposition. Opposition to the bloated, earmark filled monstrosity of a bill that Democrats are calling the stimulus should be a wonderful target. The voting public is very skeptical about deficit spending. Many of the blue dogs ran against Republican overspending. It is now time to force them into uncomfortable votes. Now is not the time for Republican to offer them cover. The fewer Republican votes for defit spending, the more it puts blue dogs in the hot seat. There will be other opportunities as well. I believe we blew an opportunity with the Treasury Secretary vote. We should not blow it on the vote for AG.
If we stay disciplined (Hey, stop laughing) hopefully after November 2010, we can stick a fork into a number of blue dog Democrats, and maybe even Democratic control of Congress.