Thursday, October 24, 2013

Republicans need to stop demonizing those who agree on goals but disagree on strategy

In a recent post on this blog I gave my own postmortem analysis of the government shut down and debt limit battle. I essentially said that while I totally agree with the objective of defunding ObamaCare, I thought a better strategy would have been for the house to pass the defund version of the continuing resolution, knowing it would fail in the Senate, then pass the delay version, knowing it also would also fail in the Senate, and then let the continuing resolution pass. The outcome would have been about the same; all Democrats would have been on record of even opposing a delay, but we would not have had a government shutdown. Instead of the strategy House Republicans followed, I thought we should focus on winning elections and once we take the Senate, then focus on the repeal and replace of Obamacare.

My friend Gene Wisdom disagreed with my view and commented that he thinks the House battle, while doomed to failure, showed courage and commitment to principle and did not distract from election chances in 2014. The 2014 elections are still sometime away and things can change in that period of time, but I think it is undeniable that the shutdown hurt the Republican "brand." (I normally resist using trendy words like "brand" but it conveys the message.)

Many Republicans argued that this government shutdown would not be as damaging to Republicans as the 1996 shutdown. They argued that ObamaCare was unpopular and that the grassroots tea party, Fox news, talk radio, and social media had lessened the influence of the mainstream media. It appears that, that was wishful thinking. Greater blame was placed on the Republicans for the 2013 shutdown than was for the 1996 shutdown. What the polls don't measure however, is how much people care. The shutdown was not even an inconvenience for most people. If you were not on vacation trying to visit a national park, you may have not even known there was a shutdown. People may blame the Republicans more and still not really care about the issue all that much.
If Obamacare is still viewed as a disaster by 2014, and there are not more government shut downs, then perhaps Republicans can recover and win some Senate seats and maintain a House majority. Time will tell, but as of now, Republicans are liked even less than in the recent past.  To stand any chance of doing well in 2014 we have to recover some lost ground. Unless Republicans can improve their standing with the American people, we may lose Senate seats and may even lose control of the House.

Sept. 2013 poll
Despite all of the above however, I am not certain that if we would have not had a government shutdown, that the strategy of playing nice and hoping to win elections would have been a winning strategy either. Writing in National Review OnLine, Andrew C. McCarthy says:
To buy the GOP establishment’s "repeal by winning elections" alternative, you also have to believe that Republicans are going to repeal a vast entitlement that has, by then, been on the books, with millions of Americans drawing subsidies, for at least four, and more likely six or more, years.
He says the House strategy of repealing ObamaCare by forcing a government shut down was a "hail Mary pass," but says the Republican strategy of repeal by winning elections is not even a hail Mary pass but is, "the art of the impossible."

So, where do we go from here? For one thing, we need to stop demonizing those who agree on goals but disagree on strategy. Those who wanted to attempt to defeat ObamaCare by closing down the government and forcing a defunding or delay as the cost of  reopening the government should not be denounced as crazies and terrorist and anarchist, and those who want to repeal and replace ObamaCare by winning elections should not be demonized as traitors, RINO's and sell-outs. Good and reasonable people can disagree on tactics and strategy. We must unite and fight to elect Republicans, repeal Obamacare and cut government spending. Even a "liberal" Republican is more conservative than a "conservative" Democrat. A vote for any Republican is still a vote for a Republican majority and a Republican President of the Senate, and Republican Chairmen of committees. Those who are looking for ideological purity are shooting themselves in the foot.

The second thing we have to realize is that we may lose. ObamaCare may be here to stay. Along with ObamaCare other changes may occur. High unemployment and lessened economic growth, less rugged individualism and less opportunity for advancement, a sluggish economy and culture that does not welcome innovation and a burdensome bureaucracy that inhibits economic growth and innovation may be the new normal and our country may become a nation that more closely resemble European nations than the America of the past. Personally, living in a society that resembled England or France would not be that terrible. This passage from Charles Murray's Coming Apart, I think, says it best:
Europe has proved that countries with enfeebled family, vocation, community and faith can still be pleasant places to live. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Paris. When I get there, the people don't seem to groaning under the yoke of an oppressive system. On the contrary, there's a lot to like about day-to-day life in the advanced welfare states of western Europe. They are great places to visit. But the view of life that has taken root in those same countries is problematic. It seems to go something like this: The purpose of life to to while away the time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible, and the purpose of government is to make it as easy as possible to while away the time as pleasantly as possible- the European Syndrome.
I don't want it to happen. Something valuable would be lost for ever if American continues on the path we are taking. The trajectory we are on did not start with the election of Barack Obama. It has been happening for a long time. A change has been occurring in the American character. It is not just all politics and the last election. As institutions no longer work, the family structure weakens, and values decline, people are more inclined to look to government as the solution to all their problems and for their sense of identity.  A guaranteed income and six weeks paid vacation becomes more important than the opportunity to achieve enormous success. Mediocrity and equality become more valued than excellence. I fear Americans no longer wants to be exceptional. We want to be average. We want to be like other modern industrialized Western nations.

I don't want the American example of free markets, individual liberty, and self-sufficiency to disappear, but I am afraid it is happening. America is becoming less exceptional day by day. We are not there yet however, and maybe we can reverse the trend and reclaim the America we knew. I am not ready to give up the fight but the future is not guaranteed. 

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent, Rod. We still disagree on some important points but we also agree on some essentials. Will try to expound soon.