There is more tolerance for fringe liberals parading strange notions of collectivism and women’s liberation than for Republicans who stray from their party’s box. This imbalance of opinion comes from both the left and the right, but the bigotry remains reserved exclusively for the right-wingers who are painted as having run off the rails.
It makes the theory of Republicans going into the crevasse of emotional politics to beat Democrats at their game of high-minded demagoguery almost impossible. The fuss about Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s lawsuit against elements of the ACA demonstrates this. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board: “Johnson’s suit challenges a federal rule that allows members of Congress and their staffs to continue to receive health benefits similar to other federal employees.”
The suit, MJS argues, “is just another attack in the guerrilla warfare that members of the far right have been using to confuse the public about the act and hamper its implementation.” The rest of the editorial reads desperate, pleading with Mr. Johnson to — gee wiz — knock off the attitude, already Mister, since the whole health care reform initiative “doesn’t need much help to look bad given its abysmal rollout.”
Mr. Johnson’s suit is a parlor trick that bears little chance of imploding the ACA. Nevermind that the suit could have merit. The Senator used his platform to bring to light yet another unpredictably audacious and unconstitutional element of the Affordable Care Act to continue the march, however unlikely, to repeal or defunding or whatever act it takes to make this monstrosity dissolve into history.
Let’s not parse their case about confusing the public; that’s not the point here. The linchpin of their editorial is another Wisconsin legislator, James Sensenbrenner, who publicly decried his colleague’s lawsuit as political stunt. Remember that Mr. Sensenbrenner represents one of the most reliably and regularly Republican counties in the nation and gains little political clout for decrying a popular and effective Senator. If he is jockeying to challenge Mr. Johnson for a Senate seat, he’s being a boob and directly causing trouble for the party. His statement neatly wrapped the MJS editorial.
When Republicans speak ill of other Republicans, Democrats are the first to point it out and organize a parade across town to commemorate the blessed event. If Democrats ever spoke ill of other Democrats, Republicans wouldn’t know what to do. They’re terrible at playing politics.
It was national news yesterday when CNN reported that a former White House staffer said President Obama isn’t so great at governing but makes a heckuva campaigner.
Ron Johnson is hardly a nut, but a well-known and senior Republican legislator, from the same state no less, took the time to poo-poo him. The left, with control of the media and, in turn, a significant portion of public opinion, can exploit these moves.
The same happened when John Boehner said Tea Partiers “lost all credibility” and were acting “ridiculous” and were “using the American people” for their opposition to the bipartisan budget bill rolled out last month. While the budget his party helped craft may have been the best possible solution, his tactics of scapegoating and lambasting the Tea Party were not. The news stories would have little to do with the merits of the legislation and everything to do with creating a narrative about the Establishment vs. The Kooks. Ironically, suddenly Mr. Boehner became the most authoritative and heralded voice on conservative politics in the country. When the media machine and quiet apathy of the general voter work together to diminish all right-wing politics, creating this unintended talking point does nothing for the cause.
The odium is reciprocal. Following the Ryan-Murray deal, anecdotally, talk radio was aflame with conservatives throwing darling Paul Ryan under the bus for negotiating a bill. Anyone who would expect an immediate, across-the-board cut in spending and a balanced budget with a Democrat president and Senate is oblivious to the political realities that govern the political process. The Ryan-Murray accord was a victory, if for no other reason than Democrats weren’t popping champagne in celebration, a first since the 2006 congressional takeover.
Meanwhile, the freaks of the left run unchecked: Code Pink, Occupy Wall Street, the braless dreadlocked shim with a joint in one hand and a pair of scissors around its neck to advocate the castration of men in celebration of feminism — but enough about Keith Olbermann’s dominatrix. It doesn’t matter how extreme the fringe, which usually exists for a single cause and purpose, mainstream Democrats either jump to their defense or choose not to engage with them, and offer a meaningless, “maybe they have a point” aside.
Worse, Democrats are superiorly equipped with a capacity to unite in the interest of electing their candidates. Remember the camera shot up Hillary Clinton’s nose when the New York delegation announced the votes to nominate Barack Obama in 2008? I was drunk enough to not remember, but I’m told it was deliciously gratuitous. Mrs. Clinton’s stint as Secretary of State served to microwave her resume, keeping her in politics and in the public eye for a significant part of her opponent’s first term as a prelude to the inevitable 2016 bid. It takes little imagination to envision Hillary Clinton storming into then-Chair Howard Dean’s office at the beginning of 2008, picking him up by the collar, slamming him against the wall, and, from behind gritted teeth, growling, “This was supposed to be mine.” Barack Obama dethroned the imminent front-runner, thanks to the novelty of race trumping gender. For Democrats, politics, not principal, govern all practical matters in order to get elected.
Even today, the dumbfounding claims came from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton opposed the troop surge in Iraq to position themselves politically. Republicans like Mr. Boehner are guilty of having done the same, but at least with an end goal and always in the short term. For Democrats, the end goal is election for power’s sake in order to leverage abortion rights and gay marriage laws.
In order to maintain a status as legitimate contenders in national politics, Republicans must hold hands and jump, together, into the crevasse of nasty party politics, and learn to beat Democrats at their own game.