Monday, August 23, 2010

'We're not the other guys' isn't good enough, GOP

I've got a disagreement with the Washington Examiner's editorial - 'We're not the other guys' isn't good enough, GOP: - today:

That is why it is critically important for congressional Republicans to put forward a concrete agenda before the election as an alternative to that of big-spending congressional Democrats. Instead, Republicans appear satisfied to fall back on a one-plank platform: "We're not the Democrats." That won't cut it because, as pollster Scott Rasmussen recently told the Wall Street Journal, the GOP will benefit from voters' desire to oust the party in power, but "75 percent of Republicans say their representatives in Congress are out of touch with the party base. Should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they've learned lessons from the Bush years."
They're conflating two completely different things here. The first is running, the second is governing. "We're not the Democrats" is obviously not going to cut it once they win back the House. But for right now, putting up specific agenda items allows people to specifically target them. "We're not the Democrats" gives them a chance with anyone who is upset with the Democrats, and that's a sizeable majority right now. Given where they are at the moment, specific agenda items are more likely to cost votes than win them. The country needs to take some strong medicine, and describing that medicine, and the specific procedures involved, aren't going to be pleasant. They'll certainly need an agenda upon taking office, but today, they're best bet to take that office is to continue hammering the disastrous policies of the Reid-Pelosi Congress and the Obama administration. Outlining, for example, programs to save Social Security and Medicare, if that's what they intend to do, just gives Democrats a chance to scream about them cutting those programs, while also turning off those who'd like to see them gone.

How did the Democrats win in 2006 and 2008? "We're not the Republicans." To the extent that they had specific policy positions, they were just "anti-" - anti-Iraq War and anti-Guantanamo Bay. Well, the Republicans are anti-stimulus and anti-Obamacare and anti-big Democratic government spending. To the extent that Obama did run on a positive platform in 2008, it was a platform built of lies. His policy on taxes was that there wouldn't be any increases for those making less than $250,000, his policy on health care was that "if you like you're health care, you can keep your health care." Lies, brutal blatant lies, but lies nonetheless. Anti-Republican and dishonest messaging is how the Democrats won.

So it's not "critically important for congressional Republicans to put forward a concrete agenda before the election" - it's critically important that they win the election, and whatever strategy is best for that is the strategy that they should be pursuing. It looks to me as if that's what's happening. Continue to bang on the Obamacare drum, the stimulus drum, the debt and deficit drums. If it isn't a specific policy agenda, it's certainly an implied policy agenda, and one to which they'd best be committed. Rasmussen's comment that "should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they've learned lessons from the Bush years" is certainly true, but that doesn't mean that they should be putting specifics on the table today. They shouldn't be doing anything today that doesn't help them win in November. The time for governing comes after that. They'd better be ready when they take the oaths in January, they should be working on it behind the scenes today, but today's messaging should be all about whatever message is going to be most effective in helping them win.

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