The Republicans’ Populist Moment: Squander or Capitalize?
With the bid for re-election of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) now recorded in the ignominious annals of crushing defeat, the Republican gains for the 2014 mid-term elections stand at nine Senate seats for a total of 54, and 12 seats in the House for a total of 246 going into the 115th Congress in January 2015. Among the most notable factoids, this is the largest House Republican majority since the Truman Administration (and if challenger Martha McSally wins over incumbent Rep. Ron Barber, D-AZ the majority will be the largest since 1929); and this is the first time since the Reconstruction era that the Deep South has turned Red. (for the full map legend, click here.)
Now that the once proud Democratic Party has turned itself into the Stalinista party, the Republicans have a quintessential moment in time to reshape domestic and foreign policy. If the Senate run-off race in Louisiana can be construed as a microcosm of voting America, immigration and the concern over the ongoing rule by executive fiat are among those issues in the forefront of people’s minds.
However, it is the Republican candidates themselves who are contributing to this seminal populist moment. Gone are the oddities of past elections, as in Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell, the embarrassments of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, and the poorly run, gaffe-ridden campaign of Sharron Angle, who should have won against the wildly unpopular, Harry Reid (D-NV). This time around they were replaced with the caliber of Mia Love (R-UT), Tom Cotton (R-LA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Cory Gardner (R-UT), and others. The Republican stable of candidates were more relatable for the average American – working, middle-class America, veterans, working moms, minorities. These candidates ran on platforms that rallied against Obamacare, were pro-job creation, securing our borders, a strong national defense, and governing according to the Constitution.
With these new majorities in the House and Senate, what might be the game plan of Republican leadership? What are the issues that they’re going to tackle and how? It would not be the first time that Republicans were given a majority based upon populist platforms, only to run afoul of the electorate by honing in issues that were of little importance to the people who are trying to feed children or holding two jobs to pay the rent or mortgage. Many remember the promising 1994 “Contract with America” that dissolved into a fight over the impeachment of a serial womanizer President. Now in 2014, we have the electorate once again sending elected representatives to Congress with a mission to take this country back to the rule of law and get this country working again.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are old-school Republicans. Connected with the K Street crowd, they know how the game is played. Boehner has repeatedly said that he would not shut down the government over the funding/un-funding of the President’s unilateral executive action granting amnesty to at least 4 million people. Consider his statements within the context of the reasons people voted in an overwhelming Republican majority.
The larger elephant-in-the-room question concerning the amnesty/immigration issue is whether Boehner will buck the US Chamber of Commerce and other long-time fat cat backers of the Republican Party. The answer in a word is no. Not from the current scenario being played out in Washington. And therein lies the seeds of a rerun “you’re all alike, in it for yourselves” meme to be replayed in the 2016 voting booths.
Obamacare. Another example of a Republican opportunity and one that could go largely missed. The US Supreme Court will hear the case, King v. Burwell in March 2015. The crux of the suit is whether the federal government can legally dispense healthcare subsidies in the 34 states that opted out of creating their own exchanges. Without the subsidies, close to 90 percent of those people enrolled in Obamacare would probably not be able to afford healthcare premiums. Will the Republicans cool their collective heels and wait for the Supreme Court decision in June, 2015, hanging their hopes on Justice Roberts atoning for his first decision, or, will they aggressively set in motion full repeal and replacement. An alternative that polling suggests Americans might be willing to swallow, would be to go through the ACA Bill, (this time reading it), and scrapping/replacing the pieces that are the cause of 30 hour work week and business hiring retrenchment.
National security. Currently run by our America’s own White House JV team, the Republicans have an opportunity to craft a policy and introduce legislation that deals head-on with the global terrorism threat, and does more than play verbal volleyball with Iran, Putin, and China. While Obama is concentrating on signing meaningless carbon emissions agreements with China (at least for China it’s meaningless), our Asian Walmart product producers are merrily hacking their way inside the American defense industry, producing stealth fighters that bear an eerie resemblance to the F-35. Cyber attacks on the US power grid are a close second. Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin bringing them another step closer to regional nuclear hegemony, while Secretary of State John Kerry battles Hillary for the “most useless” title.
Keystone XL. The piece of legislation that most people can agree on, at least those who favor jobs and national energy security versus Solyndra-style cronyism and green solutions that won’t produce enough of America’s energy needs until well past the time that all who are reading this are long dead. Renewable energy accounted for 10% of US energy consumption in 2013 and 13% of electricity generation according to the EIA. The only problem with renewable energy is the cost compared to fossil fuels. Coal plants are closing and miners are on welfare, with average Joe and Jane’s electricity costs rising as well. The opportunity presents itself here for some serious energy policy balancing between renewables and fossils, and whether the Repubs have the stomach to take it on. Meanwhile, the enquiring minds want to know if McConnell et al can craft together enough votes for a veto over-ride for Keystone come Q1 2015.
Other issues abound as well, such as the US corporate income tax rate – highest in the world and one reason why corporations are parking cash overseas. Another Republican opportunity for a broad tax cut, but watch for the foot-in-mouth disease that has been a Republican forté for years. The Republicans have lacked a masterful, viable communications plan that explains issues to both the average and newly dumbed-down American voting public. Couple that with current media darling Sen. Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren (D-MA), and watch the class warfare and robber baron rhetoric garner national airplay at Republican expense.
So, we have coin-flipping time. Heads – Congressional Republicans with the help of a newly elected, more diverse group of lawmakers will capitalize on the opportunity to make their Party the predominant Party for the next decades to come. Tails – the fat, dumb and happy establishment will win out, and 2016 will signal wilderness renewal time, yet again.
Originally published at www.americanthinker.com, December 8, 2014.