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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Screwed Up With ‘Start Over’ Chorus

Now that President Obama has defined the legislative path forward for HCR (text of his remarks here), and Dems are lining up in support of the consensus, the glaring weakness of the Republicans’ strategy is coming into focus. With benefit of hindsight, it now seems terribly obvious that Republicans hurt their cause with their “throw it out and start over” message.
First, few Americans want to ditch all the work that’s been done and go through the whole yammering process all over again. People are simply growing tired of the health reform debate and it’s hard for a sane person not to agree with President Obama’s point that everything has been said and everyone has had their chance to say it. Clearly, they overestimated the public’s tolerance for never-ending debate.
Second, “let’s start over” is such a transparently partisan notion. ‘Let’s just trash all the Democrats’ efforts, and start over again so we Republicans, who just got one new, pivotal Senate vote, can dominate the deliberations.” No one with a triple-digit I.Q. could possibly believe that idea comes from a genuine bipartisan spirit.
You have to wonder what deluded world the authors of that strategy inhabit. Did they really think the Democrats would roll and say, “OK, you guys are right. let’s start all over again.” No. But it’s equally-dumb to believe that voters would think, “Gee, those reasonable, bipartisan Republicans have a point, we really should start over.”
Instead of “start over,” Republicans might have gotten more support by fighting hard for a few key measures, even if they lost. Then, at least, they would not look quite so obstructionist and negative. Their portfolio of ideas was admittedly limited, but they had a couple of measures they could have been positive about. Instead they went whole hog negative and amped up ‘the party of no’ meme.
Consider an alternate reality. What would be happening now if a few Republicans negotiated in good faith and could credibly claim they had a significant impact on the reforms? The Republican Party could then share some of the credit. Now President Obama and the Dems will get bipartisan cred for including a few Republican ideas of their choosing, while Mitch McConnell and his chorus of whining parrots will be reduced to dissing both majority rule and the enacted legislation, undoubtedly threatening to repeal it (more negativity) at some future date.
Assuming Dems have the votes to enact the legislation pretty soon, perhaps we have just been provided with an instructive lesson about the limitations of message discipline: When a party’s message is that lame, message discipline is not so great.

2 comments on “GOP Screwed Up With ‘Start Over’ Chorus

  1. David Illig on

    It may be that they are looking toward 2012, however, I am now convinced something else is at work with the Reps. Specifically, I think they now believe their time in control of the WH and Congress gave them an entitlment to dictate any and all federal policies going forward.
    Moreover, whoever first broached the notion that the Reps have lost contact with reality and/or become nihilists is on to something. There appears to be no other way to rationalize the actions of a group that is so lost they see nothing wrong with incessent lies, distortions, or misdirection to achieve their ends.
    Suggesting that the Reps are hypocrits may be off base when this clique has thrown off any ties to a value system.

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  2. Joe Corso on

    The Republican strategy is aimed at November and 2012. Their gamble is that at that time they will be able to successfully package themselves as modern-day 300 Spartans who heroically stood firm against the democratic barbarians.
    In some corners of Teapartyville this will undoubtely be very boffo stuff. Among moderate swing voters, however, the pose will hopefully come off seeming more like the story of Hiroo Onoda –remember him, the Japanese soldier who hid in the mountains of the Phillipines and refused to surrender until 1972.

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