Rep Control of Congress Will Not Rebrand Them

Mitch McConnellJonathan Cohn made an excellent point over at New Republic yesterday, Why Passing Legislation Might Not Solve the GOP’s Image Problem. There has been much talk about how if the Republicans control both chambers of Congress, they will be in a position to pass all kinds of legislation. As Mitt Romney recently said on Fox News about how Obama will be forced to veto bills, “I think at that point, we’ll find out who really is the party of no.” Cohn mentions three reasons why this isn’t likely to be the case.

First, the laws that the Republican Congress passes will almost certainly be unpopular. There is, as always, talk about immigration reform. But the Senate already passed a bill with a 13 year pathway to citizenship. This couldn’t even get a vote in the House. The Republicans there changed the bill so that the pathway was 18 years, I think. Yet even that was not acceptable. The truth is that any immigration “reform” that the Republicans pass will be something that does nothing but offend Latinos. And as I’ve discussed before, the Republican plan for immigration reform was always that it would be, “This one thing we are doing for you people!” That is not very useful in a rebranding campaign.

Other than this, I see the Republicans amending Obamacare to remove the medical device tax. I’ve heard a number of Republican politicians claim that the American people want this. The fact is the American people don’t even know that the tax exists. But I can well see the reaction of the Republican base to this bill, “You mean that’s the difference between freedom and tyranny?!” If the American people had an attention span longer than that of a gnat, all we would need to do to get them to vote for Democrats is to allow the Republicans to govern for a couple of months.

Cohn’s second reason why the Republican Congress isn’t likely to improve its brand is that the Senate Republicans are not going to stop saying “No!” to President Obama’s executive and judicial nominations. This is something I hadn’t thought about. There is zero chance that Republicans are going to be more reasonable about nominations simply because they have more power. There is a decades long trend that shows that Republicans in the Senate maximize whatever power they have. So don’t expect to see them move an inch in the direction of reasonableness.

But the biggest reason in Cohn’s opinion is that very soon the 2016 primary will start and the Republicans trying to become president will drown out everything else. And what will they be doing? Exactly what they did last time. They will be battling it out to see who is the most conservative. One will offer, “I think we should build a 50 foot wall on the border with Mexico!” And another will counter, “I guess you don’t care about illegals bringing Ebola into the country. If you did, you would support my idea to nuke Mexico so that the border is a radioactive wasteland where nothing can live!” And so on.

I think the real reason that Republicans will not be able to rebrand themselves is because they have no ideas other than “Tax cuts!” and “Drill, baby, drill!” This goes back to Cohn’s first point that the bills they will pass will be unpopular. I discussed this yesterday, The People Don’t Care About Gridlock. People want Washington to get things done in theory. But in practice, they would rather Washington not get things done than get things done that they don’t like.

So will the Republicans manage to pass a personhood bill? Very possibly. They might be able to pass Romney’s millionaire’s tax cut. They might be able to pass legislation that will take healthcare away from millions. But all of these will just reinforce the common (and correct) perception of Republicans: they can’t get much done and what they can get done is bad.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Rep Control of Congress Will Not Rebrand Them

  1. Nice guesses. At this point, to quote Rumsfeld and re-arrange, there’s what we know the GOP will do. There’s what we know we don’t know about what they’ll do. And there’s what we think we know but may not know.

    What I suspect, but can’t say for certain, is that the full frontal assault this time around is going to be more economic than social. The gay-marriage battle is lost to them. Abortion is always a perennial favorite that threatens to turn off as many voters as it draws. So I’m guessing the social/religious bits (maybe some creationism here, some attacks on Muslims there) are going to be attached to other things. The old “I supported it but didn’t actually vote for it” scheme.

    Along these lines, I think the GOP is going to focus more on the Koch/ALEC agenda. They believe they have a winner in attacking public-employee unions. As the recession continues, some voters resent these unions for having better salaries and benefits than many other workers. This highlights the issue for those 2016 candidates who have focused on it (governors like the ludicrous Scott Walker.)

    What we know we don’t know is what clever horrible new twist the best and brightest minds at think tanks are going to throw at us. You know there’ll be something. Some really sensible-sounding, innocently-labeled piece of legislation with a super-dense nucleus of pure evil, designed as a 2016 ad-strategy wedge. (“Senator Snead voted against the Save America’s Future Act.”) I’d be shocked if there isn’t some real doozy lined up and ready to go.

    What do we know, completely and assuredly? That we’ll have more budget shenanigans. Debt-ceiling shit, probably at least one temporary government shutdown, battles over funding payments to states and food stamps and all kinds of nonsense. Presidential wannabes will be pimping this stuff like their dreams depend on it; we’ll see half a dozen Ted Cruz types slither out from under their assorted rocks.

    And that last may end up being a boon for our side. No matter how erotic budget fights are to the far right, or if “living within our means” may sound vaguely sensible to many people, gumming up the works (which will happen) strikes most voters as childish. It will lower approval ratings for Obama and Congress both; but Obama won’t be running again.

    I expect this nonsense to produce a Democratic swing at least as large as the supposed GOP swing we saw tonight. With the usual caveats for wars, disasters, economic collapses, etc.

    Hey, at least in Minnesota, Franken and the governor won by substantially larger margins than they did last time!

    • I think you are right about the GOP agenda. And what we now have are so few people in unions that there is widespread resentment of them. Instead of, “Everyone should have a good union job!” It is, “Why do they have good jobs when the rest of us don’t.” Divide and conquer. It is amazing that Republicans are the ones always talking about dividing the country, as though the 99%-1% divide is anything we should worry about, “Oh, those poor rich people!” But it is Republicans who are pushing to divide worker from worker. I’ve long argued that conservatives hate unions more because they create solidarity than because they raise wages.

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