E. J. Dionne, Jr. cuts through layers of fog in his Washington Post column, “Can the voters change the GOP?,” and clarifies Democratic strategy in the process. Dionne rolls out the choice that millions of voters face:
The central issue in this fall’s elections could turn out to be a sleeper: What kind of Republican Party does the country want?…It is, to be sure, a strange question to put to an electorate in which independents and Democrats constitute a majority. Yet there is no getting around this: The single biggest change in Washington over the last five years has been a GOP shift to a more radical form of conservatism. This, in turn, has led to a kind of rejectionism that views cooperation with President Obama as inherently unprincipled.
Dionne notes the Republicans’ most recent efforts to placate their nativist wing, while angering Latinos with increasingly mean-spirited immigration “reform” measures and rhetoric. Further, adds Dionne, “there is as yet no sense of the sort of tide that in 2010 gave a Republicanism inflected with tea party sensibilities dominance in the House. The core narrative of the campaign has yet to be established. Democrats seeking reelection are holding their own in Senate races in which they are seen as vulnerable.”
Last week’s legislative commotion could change the political winds by putting the costs of the GOP’s flight from moderation into stark relief. House Republicans found themselves in the peculiar position of simultaneously suing Obama for executive overreach and then insisting that he could act unilaterally to solve the border crisis.
“On balance,” concludes Dionne, “Washington gridlock has hurt Democrats more than Republicans by dispiriting moderate and progressive constituencies that had hoped Obama could usher in an era of reform. The key to the election will be whether Democrats can persuade these voters that the radical right is the real culprit in their disappointment — and get them to act accordingly on Election Day.”