State-of-the-R: Republicans as the opposition party
Republicans are the opposition party. Well, not really, they actually control both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government but they still think and act that way.
Beginning in the 72nd Congress (1931), Republicans were the majority party in the House of Representatives only two times (totaling 4 years) prior to the 1994 election, following the elections of 1946 and 1952. Since 1994, Republicans have held the House majority for all but four of the last 22 years. You’d think they would have learned to govern in that time but the record shows something different.
I was inspired to write this blog today as I watched the roll out of the American Health Care Act, the Republicans Obamacare replacement. Everyone seems to hate it, liberals and conservatives, old and young. By all accounts it’s not better health care at a cheaper cost as we were promised, but just the opposite. The real question is why won’t republicans fix what’s broken rather than gut it and start over? The answer is they are the opposition party and they despise Obamacare regardless of whether it’s helping people or not. For the better part of 8 years republicans of all stripes trashed Obamacare. It was fun. They’ve controlled the House of Representatives from 2011-present, six of eight years of the Obama presidency and yet never once offered a real alternative to Obamacare, despite voting symbolically to repeal it literally dozens of times. They never passed a real reform, never forced Obama to veto or sign a better idea. Symbolism is a key trait of the opposition. They are the opposition party.
As I observe the general state of politics today I see this: Republicans want to blow everything up because, armed only with an opposition party mindset, they think that the way it has been done for the last however many years is wrong. I also see that for six of eight years of the Bush 43 Presidency, Republicans controlled the House and had working majorities in the Senate. Surely all of these issues they want to address now – entitlement, tax, and regulatory reform were addressed back then? You know where I am going with this.
Republicans are always on the attack and to many it seems the democrats are not prepared to fight back. This is in large part because democrats think “governing” first – an attitude honed from 1931 to 1994 that continues today and republicans think about how to blow everything up -- an attitude also honed from 1931 until 1994 that continues today. The responsibilities have been largely reversed post-1994 but the approach by each part has stayed the same, leading to both being miscast in their current roles.
This plays out in the “imagine if Hillary had done what Trump’s doing” argument. Republicans were locked and loaded to begin impeachment proceedings against Hillary Clinton on day 1 of the 115th Congress. Did she do anything wrong? Well no, but it didn’t matter they’re the opposition party and they were going to take her down. By all accounts, the Russia election hacking and possible connections to the Trump campaign is far worse than anything any person named Clinton has ever done. It is a threat to our democracy, our very way of life. But very few Republicans are willing to blame Russia. Most prefer to focus on the leaks that must have come from “Obama-friendly" people inside government – the “deep state” argument. This seems misdirected but when you realize the only opponent in the eyes of republicans are the democrats, it makes more sense.
I think the 2018 election is going to be another wave election along the lines of 1994, 2006 and 2010. To have a wave, you need a defining moment and we have two already – Russia and healthcare reform/repeal. We are less than 2 months into the Trump Presidency. It continues to baffle me why republicans aren’t running for the hills creating distance between themselves and Trump on Russia and why they are insisting on moving an Obamacare repeal bill forward despite opposition from all sides. If the Trump/Russia thing gets worse (and you know it will) every republican that doesn’t speak up now is going to have to answer for it on the campaign trail in 2018. And they’re on the record – the House has voted twice to block privileged motions to force Trump to release his taxes along party lines. If you take away healthcare from an estimated 10 million people, they’ll have to answer for that too – they own it.
The waters are rough right now. Opposition party tactics aren’t going to work. A wave is coming. Hang loose!