Obviously, Democrats are doing well and Republicans are doing badly. But the Gallup data showing that Democrats have a favorability rating of +16 while Republicans are at -fucking27 is still pretty striking.
It didn't have to be this way. The natural thing to do after November 2006, if you're a party being dragged down by an unpopular president, is to run away from the president and have your House and Senate leaders cut deals with Democrats to get stuff passed and take your worst issues of the table. Compromise on S-CHIP. Agree on a plan to get out of Iraq. Let vulnerable Congresspeople assert their independence by talking against the president on cable shows and straying from unpopular positions on party-line votes. If it makes the Democrats look good too, don't sweat it -- you've got 22 Senate incumbents up for election and the Democrats only have 12, so hatred of Congress hurts you more than it hurts the majority party. While I'm willing to give Mitch McConnell credit for being a devious legislative tactician, he has only himself to blame for the strategic blunders that led to Democrats getting to 58 or 59 Senate seats.
I'm sort of curious about how the GOP leadership comes out of watching Democrats win back both chambers in 2006 and keeps doing what they're doing. Is it just that the key GOP constituencies are too stupid to let you compromise? If I were a health insurance lobbyist, I would've given these guys room to bend on S-CHIP in 2008 so that I wouldn't be broken by universal health care in 2009. Or are the memories of victory in 1994 and 2004 so vivid that you can't even think about doing other things as part of a defensive strategy?
I'm sort of curious about how the GOP leadership comes out of watching Democrats win back both chambers in 2006 and keeps doing what they're doing. Is it just that the key GOP constituencies are too stupid to let you compromise?
I don't think it is outright stupidity (though that played a part too) so much as it is ideological rigidity. Since at least Gingrich (and probably well before then), Republicans have valued party and ideological discipline above all else. When the opposition party is weak, that can be great asset, since it helps you capitalize on your opponents weakness. But when your opponent sprinkles some pragmatism in their policy and electoral choices, you're at a disadvantage, since you're unable to look bend your ideology and look for solutions.
Sadly - for the Republicans at least - things will probably get worse before they get better, since the only Republicans left behind are the true believers and even more rigid ideologues.
Regarding the last paragraph, I'm wondering how the GOP's downward spiral can end.
I'm not sure what exactly will end the GOP's downward spiral, but I do think any solution will involve a renewed emphasis on policy. Republicans have to regain American's trust, and to do that, they need to provide actual solutions, as opposed to rank incompetence*.
* I hope this isn't too banal.
Yeah, I've been thinking that it'll have to be a bottom-up kind of policy focus. Not one where you take your ideological preconceptions and design policies to fit them, but one where you find a real underappreciated issue that's affecting ordinary people and build a solution to it. Sort of like we have with health care.
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