© Josh Sager – September 2014
Over the past few years, it has become apparent that the Republican Party has completely given up on the concept of governing on the federal level. They have obstructed everything—including things that they previously supported and even simple housekeeping measures—grandstanded with numerous partisan investigations that border on conspiracy theorism (ex. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS anti-conservatism, etc.), and even shut down the government in an attempt to destroy Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment.
The GOP plan is to cripple the federal government with terrible gridlock while blocking Obama any avenue to make Americans’ lives better, then to run on Obama’s lack of progress in making Americans’ lives better. Any attempts by Obama to get his priorities passed through the Congress are dead on arrival, as the GOP will not support anything that Obama does, even if they have a long history of supporting it (ex. the individual mandate for healthcare). Additionally, any attempt by Obama to “go it alone” and exercise his executive authority is met with specious claims that he is overstepping his constitutional authority and has become an “imperial president.”
In effect, the Republicans on the federal level have transitioned from a party of governance, to a party of protest—they no longer see governing as one of their goals and have focused all of their efforts on scoring political points. They are acting like an insurgent third party that doesn’t have any governing responsibilities, thus focuses all of its efforts on politics rather than the job of crafting policy (ex. the green party doesn’t have to keep the federal lights on, and can focus on its pet issues while maintaining policy purity).
In the case of the Republicans, this is double victory, as it creates immense dysfunction in the government and helps them demonstrate their long-held assertion that the government doesn’t work, while letting them focus all of their influence on gaining more power.
Occasionally, Republicans who are either careless or stupid say something that reveals the GOP game plan to the American public. Here are a few examples of such slip-ups:
“Our top political priority of the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”
Arguably this quote by McConnell is the most famous example of a Republican being accidentally honest. He is admitting that his party cares more about unseating the president than any substantive policy proposal (ex. reducing unemployment) and his actions back up this comment perfectly. In 2008, on the night that Obama was sworn into office, McConnell was one of the Republicans to meet in D.C. and plot a strategy of complete obstruction.
“It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now [in dealing with ISIS]. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Kingston is admitting that, rather than take a principled stance on the issues, his party’s plan is to completely give up its responsibility to govern—if things go badly, they will throw all blame onto Obama and cite their lack of cooperation as a sign of good judgment, while, if Obama’s executive actions have positive results, they will take credit and say that they could do better.
This strategy is good for politics, but is the complete antithesis of a governing strategy. In order to govern, you must stake out a position and follow through. Refusing to take a position and trying to take credit or assign blame after the results are known is an abrogation of governance and a luxury only possible for a person with no real power.
“We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it [the Obama agenda], stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.”
John Boehner’s quote cannot be simpler. He is stating his party’s intention to spend all of its time obstructing Obama, regardless of what he supports. When they cannot kill an Obama project, they will stall it until it becomes as painful and drawn out as possible.
We see the Republican strategy emerging from the totality of these quotes. Their strategy is to reflexively obstruct everything that Obama proposes, while taking credit for anything that he succeeds at despite their obstruction and demonizing him for not being able to unilaterally make things better in this country. This strategy is politically pragmatic, but it should also disqualify them from holding any real power. They are completely disregarding the responsibility that comes with holding political office and, if they want to act like a party with no power to govern, the American people must ensure that they don’t hold any positions that require them to.