Saturday, May 10, 2014
Dressing Up the Turkey
David Frum once said it wasn't so much the GOP's message that was its problem as it was its messengers. Don't look now, but Republicans appear to be listening. In North Carolina, establishment Republican Thom Tillis defeated Tea Party candidate Greg Brannon handily in that state's GOP primary. In South Carolina, Lindsay Graham is so far ahead of the pack he can coast to the finish line in his primary. In Georgia, David Perdue, another establishment Republican, has a 7 point lead over his closest Tea Party opponent, Jack Kingston. And in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell appears poised to dispose of Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin.
Think that's odd? Check out this. Mitt Romney recently came out in support of raising the minimum wage and Rand Paul criticized his party's obsession with voter ID laws. To quote the great Dr. Peter Venkman, "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"
Now before you go getting the idea that the Republican Party has had an epiphany of sorts, it should be pointed out that Tillis supported the government shutdown, Graham recently called the Obama Administration scumbags over the Benghazi "scandal," Paul actually endorsed Brannon in the North Carolina primary and Mitt Romney, well, his position fluctuates with the particular month of the year. I guess May must be "have a heart" month.
What's really going on here is that, slowly but surely, Republican voters are starting to wake up to the fact that nominating imbeciles in primaries only to have them defeated in generals is not a very good way to rest power from your opponents. In fact, up until now, it's been brutally ineffective.
There's been no change of heart in the Party so far as I can detect. Virtually all of these candidates have stated positions well out of the mainstream. They're against Obamacare, against gay marriage, against immigration reform, against regulation of any kind, against raising the minimum wage, against the teaching of evolution, against public education, against women's rights, against the concept of global warming, but they're for huge tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the middle class and working poor and, oh yes, they're pro guns, guns, guns. The only perceptible difference is that they're not as crazy as the aforementioned losers were.
I have been saying this for well over a year. Sooner or later the GOP was going to stop shooting itself in the foot and nominate candidates who could walk and chew gum at the same time. Well, it seems as though sooner has arrived. And while it is still early in the game - we still have five whole months for one or more of these candidates to go all Todd Akin - for now it appears that the establishment wing of the Party has reasserted its control of "Operation Midterm." Say this for them, they might be half a century behind the times, but even they see the writing on the wall. If they don't win this year, their goose is cooked for 2016.
What does this mean for Democrats? Well, for one, it means that the gravy train is over. The Democratic Party won't be able to just sit by and wait for its opponents to commit suicide. If my hunch is correct, Democrats are going to have to work hard to retain their majority in the Senate and to not suffer further losses in the House.
It won't be easy. Historically, Democrats don't fare well in midterms. For some strange reason, their base doesn't turn out as well as it does in presidential elections. The young vote in particular tends to sit at home. The Party must do its utmost to get as many of these voters as possible to the polls this November.
But since that is unlikely, there is only one alternative left, and if they execute it correctly, they will prevail. Democrats must go on the offensive. They must attack their Republican opponents where they live. They can and must draw a distinction between their positions and that of the GOP's. Timidity is a strategy they can ill afford.
Republicans will come after Democrats on Obamacare. Democrats must counter with the fact that millions of uninsured people now have coverage. They must drive home to the voters that, thanks to the ACA, their kids can stay on their health plans until they turn 26 and that pre-existing conditions are now a thing of the past. They must also make it crystal clear that if Republicans follow through with their threats to repeal the law, all that goes out the window. The GOP has no alternative plan for healthcare reform; they never did. In the end, more people will be helped by this law than hurt. It is vital that Democrats point that out.
Democrats will have a litany of other issues to run on. While House Republicans spend most of the summer lost in Benghazi land, Democrats can go after them by stating the obvious: the GOP has done virtually nothing in its four years of majority rule in the House. Imagine two more years of that insanity in the Senate.
Immigration reform, healthcare, women's reproductive rights, the environment, voting rights, the minimum wage, these are all issues where Democrats hold an advantage over Republicans with the voters. Framed properly, Democrats can put Republicans on the defensive on every one of these issues. They can say something like this: "Okay, we know what you're against; now tell us what you're for." In political terms, that's known as put up or shut up.
Democrats are already beginning to employ this strategy in their senate races. In North Carolina and Arkansas, for instance, both Kay Hagen and Mark Pryor are going after their opponents' extreme positions and are doing surprisingly well as a result. As of now, both are ahead, albeit slightly, in their respective polls.
The Republican plan for November should be obvious. Dress up this turkey they call a party enough so that it looks appetizing to the electorate. They are masters at mudslinging and messaging. They are banking on the following: low voter turnout and Democrats running for the hills. As far as the former is concerned, that's anybody's guess. As far as the latter goes, that ball is squarely in the Democrats' court.
There is only one way to deal with a turkey. Cut off its head, stuff it, cook it and serve it up on a platter. Now you know why election day is in November.