Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Idea deficit, tea partiers, and money woes threaten to haunt Republicans in 2010

As anyone who spends any amount of time watching cable television news knows, Republicans have been confidently boasting that 2010 will be the year they erase the Democratic gains that were made in the historic 2006 and 2008 election cycles, which resulted in the Democratic takeover of Congress and the White House.

Top Republicans - from John Boehner to Mitch McConnell to Michael Steele - have all recently claimed that Americans are ready to vote the Graveyard of Progress Party back into power. (Yes, the same party that willfully squandered our moral authority, common wealth, and natural resources for the better part of this decade before they were unceremoniously swept out of office.)

Democrats were handed the gavels in large part because it finally became painfully clear to voters that Republicans simply lacked the ability to govern.

Unfortunately, since taking over, Democrats have largely failed to push through the progressive reforms that our country so desperately needs. Republicans, naturally, are anxious to take advantage of this situation to their benefit.

But despite congressional Democrats' lack of discipline, inability to move with all deliberate speed on issues like the climate crisis, and unwillingness to stand up to powerful corporate interests (name just about any industry) - all of which leads to a demotivated Democratic base - Republicans don't enjoy the high ground.

That's because they're facing a lot of headwinds themselves.

First and foremost, the Republican Party is bankrupt of inspirational leadership and ideas. Take a look at the current Republican rhetoric on terrorism. Congressional Republicans and the RNC are chastising Obama for not using the right wing Bush error phrase war on terror. They're on air basically trashing the President over semantics. He's not using their frame! Oh noes!

Republicans spent pretty much all of 2009 trashing the President and Democrats in Congress without adding anything constructive to the national dialogue. Pick just about any topic. The phrase "The Party of No" is a truly fitting descriptor for the Republicans. They're not interested in bipartisanship, cooperation, or the public interest. In a nutshell, they want to regain power so they can waste time talking about making it unconstitutional to burn flags.

Problem is, that's not very appealing to voters. As lackluster as the Democrats have been, Republicans have offered no evidence that they will be more effective. In fact, they have made it plainly clear from their behavior that they will do a far worse job of legislating if they were to become the majority party.

But Republicans' problems don't end there.

The party's base, which is comprised of a not insigificant number of what I'll call tea partiers (they are also known as teabaggers) is not satisfied with many of the candidates that the Republican establishment has anointed to be their standard bearers. Take Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, who wants to be U.S. Senator. He's facing an intraparty challenge from tea party favorite Marco Rubio, who recently served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

In California, the tea partiers have lined up behind Chuck DeVore as an alternative to ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is seeking the Republican nomination to take on Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate.

In New Hampshire, the right wing is backing Ovide Lamontagne against the Republican establishment's choice, ex-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. In Virginia's 5th Congressional District, right wingers such as Laura Ingraham are promoting Laurence Verga over the "hand-selected NRCC" candidate Robert Hurt.

Many of these insurgent tea party candidates are getting help from an unlikely source: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who apparently is not worried about taking flak from Mitch McConnell and Company.

Finally, money woes look like they could be a real problem for the Republicans. Democrats have done such a good job kowtowing to Wall Street so far that major corporations have no real reason to throw Republicans a lifeline. And after seeing their party take beatings in 2006 and 2008, individual Republican members of Congress seem to be in no hurry to share their own funds with new recruits:
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the key cog in helping to finance GOP campaigns, has banked less than a third as much money as its Democratic counterpart and is ending the year with barely enough money to fully finance a single House race -- no less the dozens that will be in play come 2010.


The fundraising disparity between the two committees is striking: The DCCC outraised the NRCC this year by more than $18 million, according to FEC figures at the end of November. The NRCC has only $4.3 million left in its campaign account — with more than $2 million in debt -- leaving it with just a pittance to fund the dozens of races it hopes to aggressively contest.
Republicans are running out of time to make up ground. Primary elections in many states are just a few months away. If the party establishment wants its hand-selected candidates to be the standard-bearers, its operatives and congressional power brokers will probably be compelled to spend in those races.

By the time the primaries are over, the general election will be pretty close, and it will be time to start plotting the narratives for the nasty, ridiculous, and unfair attack ads against Democrats. All those derogatory campaign commercials and mailers will cost a staggering amount of money, because electioneering has become a fairly expensive for-profit industry.

Republicans have made a lot of noise about Democrats retiring this cycle, but the number of Republicans calling it quits is actually greater on both the House side and the Senate side. That forces Republicans to play more defense.

Republicans will win some battles in the midterms, no question. But the party lacks the muscle to effectively assault the Democratic majority.

Barring some major turn of events, there's really no possibility that Republicans can take back Congress this year. They might even do their opposition a favor by taking out of some of the Bush, er, Blue Dogs that are weighting Democrats down.


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