GOP Congress: Unintended Consequences

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

By passing Obamacare, unread, on a party-line vote, Democrats provided a case study on how to lose majorities. Congressional Republicans are foolishly writing their own study, only through inaction.

Despite a willing GOP president, Republicans’ long-promised Obamacare repeal fizzled. As of this writing, meaningful tax reform/simplification is uncertain. Infrastructure improvement authorization, border control, effective spending control/oversight ” none have passed.

Among its unintended consequences, the Democratic Party’s current disarray permits Washington Republicans to think they need not honor their campaign promises. The GOP-controlled Senate won’t change its rules to break legislative filibusters, because then congressional Republicans would be forced to assume ownership of their commitments. An internet wag observed, “If Republicans didn’t have Democrats to run against, they’d lose every time.” There’s often truth in humor.

One of the more repellent features of American party politics is the unreasonable control the major parties exert over the governmental process. Rather than advancing candidates who are firmly-committed to representing districts and states, party brokers back controllable candidates, creating a two-tier system of loyalties that often elbows out the people’s interests.

That’s especially true in the bitterly-partisan worlds of Washington and state capitals where battle lines are sharply drawn, combatants keep meticulous score, and the parties enforce authority over affiliated officeholders. Doing the right thing is often sacrificed to more-immediate party business, often benefitting generous special interests.

Establishment GOP operatives commonly think, “Who else they gonna vote for?” ” an attitude familiar to conservatives in heavily-Republican local and state jurisdictions where the party tends to endorse uninspiring, but compliant establishment candidates rather than conducting impartial open primaries.

In the current political environment, though, conservative voters’ answer to “Who else they gonna vote for?” isn’t “Republicans.” It’s “No one.” In order to preserve their majorities and prolong the party’s success, GOP leadership in Washington and state and local committees would do well to carefully consider that risk.

The 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race was a long shot for a Republican insider. Nevertheless, always-hopeful Democrats are prematurely celebrating what was always a party slam-dunk as a predictor of future prospects.

Only Republicans can make Democrats’ hopefulness reality. Establishment Republicans must recognize that Donald Trump is a symptom, not the cause of the party’s problems. If GOP insiders were truly committed to traditional Republican values, voters wouldn’t have turned to a reality show star to disrupt political Washington’s death grip on its power, perks and excesses. Indeed, the president’s approval numbers exceed those of congressional Republicans.

Republicans lost the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections, not because Republicans voted for Democrats, but because there aren’t enough Republicans to prevail without attracting Independents and a few registered Democrats. Every Republican who votes “No one” exacerbates that problem.

If the GOP wants to keep the voters who produced its majorities, first, congressional Republicans must keep their campaign promises and, then, the party must recruit principled, truly-independent, conservative candidates who are able to earn its base’s trust.

Those are seldom found in the party’s back rooms.