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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP’s Choice: A ‘Knot of Toads’ or a Party with a Future

If Michael Tomasky is right in his Daily Beast post, “Why Republican Efforts to Block Obama Won’t Work This Time,” The Republicans’ long run of fear-driven domination of U.S. politics has nearly run its course. Tomasky cites three factors that will likely prevent them from making a comeback, like they did in 2010:

…The jobless rate is falling at a decent clip, the Fed is evidently strongly committed to getting it down to 6.5 percent, confidence is up, and all the rest of it. Republicans will have no bleak numbers to bleat about. America won’t be doubting Obama’s ability to get results on his most important task. If the positive indicators keep going up, so will Obama’s job approval numbers, and Republicans will find the audience for their economic critiques to be both smaller and less persuadable.
Second, they can’t get away with the just-say-no, Berlin Wall of opposition in the same way they did four years ago. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They’ll still do it. But I don’t think they can get away with it without paying a hefty political price. After four years of no, the party now has the reputation it has rightly earned, as less willing to compromise than Obama, less trusted than he is, and just less well-liked. The broader American public is going have a lot less patience for GOP obstructionism than it did the first time around.
And third, and maybe most of all–the country has changed culturally. Four years ago, conservatives, liberals, and centrists alike all assumed that middle-of-the-road Americans were, while not Dittoheads, pretty conservative by default. Among the political class, this has meant–for pretty much my entire adult lifetime–that your average American was likely to embrace conservative arguments about the culture, and that Democrats had to be crazy to do anything but meekly suggest that they more or less agreed with a caveat or two.
But no more. With each new day that the election recedes into the past, it becomes more and more apparent just what a watershed it was. No, it wasn’t a realignment election according to the standard political science definition. But it was in a way even bigger than that. The election was a cultural watershed moment. All the old dog-whistle tricks, hating on gay people and all that, failed utterly. After decades of struggle and activism and fights and losses for the liberal side, a switch got flipped in November. Middle-of-the-road voters just stopped buying right-wing fear-mongering.

Tomasky goes on to argue that the Republicans will begin to wake up to the reality that they have to compromise on some key issues to survive as a competitive party, or, worse:

Second, they won’t budge. In this case, Obama is not going to be able to steamroll them. They still control the House, and they have a large enough minority in the Senate to filibuster. And history suggests that they’ll probably win some seats in the 2014 elections, especially with more Democratic senators up for reelection than Republicans. But such small victories as they get over Obama will exact a price. The more obstructionist they are–against a newly popular president, riding a decent-to-good economy, trying to pass common-sense proposals that most Americans support, like higher tax rates at the upper-end and reform of the immigration laws–the more they will look, to more and more Americans, like a knot of toads that you wouldn’t want to put in charge of cleaning out the garage, let alone running the country.

Another very possible scenario that could benefit Democrats is a standoff between the toads and the compromisers, leaving the GOP embroiled in internecine warfare, while the Democrats leverage their new unity into a filibuster-proof majority. All three scenarios bode well for the Democrats.

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