It has been an inglorious few months for the Republican brand. Everything that could go wrong has, and the momentum politically has been all in the direction of the President and his allies.
The past couple weeks however marked the first time since the election that is not the case.
It began, predictably, with gun control. I predicted long ago that the gun control fight would be a political road bump that the Democrats would not pleased by. Last week saw the first inkling of that reality. Mr. Obama released his presidential orders (of which, all that can be said is they were of no real consequence, either to defenders of the 2nd amendment or prohibitionists). He then followed with his legislative plan for Congress. This week Senator Feinstein released her plan to the public as well.
And that was largely responded to with a big ‘thud’.
What is glorious about the gun control debate for Republicans is that this is a fight that will be fought completely on the Democrat side. For the most part, Republicans will vote against any assault weapons ban. They may be willing to look at background checks, the so-called ‘gun show loophole’, and other fringe items. But the prohibitionist wing of the Democrat Party demand a Brady-like assault ban.
To have any chance of getting this through, they need to be able to get it through the Senate. Even if somehow they can get around filibuster rules, it is uncertain whether they can get 51 votes needed to pass the measure. At least 10 Democrats (including 7 from red states running for re-election in 2014) have signaled distaste for the ban. And of course, they don’t want to be holding the bag if the House GOP vote against it.
Boehner, in a moment of great wisdom, refused to take a stand on the issue…thus leaving the onus on Senate Democrats. That is precarious position for them. First, they refused to overturn the filibuster rules, which means on top of having to take unpopular votes, they need several Republicans to side with them. And with momentum in the media and in polls significantly slowing for gun control, time is running out.
The GOP had little to do with the gun control debate, but had to a lot to do with the shift in the debate on the debt ceiling and the sequester. This week, they made public a plan to give a short term extension to the debt ceiling, but promised progress only if the Senate held up their legally bound duties and passed a budget.
Again, this is a situation where the GOP has now shifted the responsibility, to some extent, to Democrats. The fight over the artificial debt ceiling was a defensive posture for the GOP, and not they were ever going to win. However, we see the first rays of light that this posture may pay dividends. From the Washington Post‘s editorial board, lauding the move:
Mr. Obama must distinguish between the Republicans’ unreasonable positions and their reasonable ones. Refusing to consider tax increases and holding the debt ceiling hostage were examples of the former; both have now been significantly modified, if not abandoned.
Insisting on serious reforms to entitlement programs, however, was the GOP’s reasonable demand, one the Republicans have not abandoned. This presents Mr. Obama with a choice: He can continue driving a hard bargain, in both political and policy terms. That would presumably entail refusing to deal on entitlements until the Republicans capitulate with regard to the sequester and a partial government shutdown on March 27.
Or the president could act on his past promises to tackle entitlements and engage in good faith with Republicans now, so that they have no further reason to exploit the sequester or threaten a shutdown. In that regard, a reference Friday by the White House to purported GOP plans for “drastic cuts in Medicare” was not an encouraging development. There is still plenty of time for Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid to show that they are willing to treat the GOP’s change in position as an opportunity to address the country’s long-term fiscal needs, rather than their party’s short-term political ones.
This is the first times in months that I can remember a major liberal publication taking any GOP argument’s side in the debate. Surely, others like the New York Times will pull a ‘Pelosi’, and argue that any discussion of a normally passed budget and proper appropriations process is, in her words, ‘ludicrous’. But most common sense people have been arguing for this for at least four years. The budgetary system is broken. Yes, Republicans played a part in it. But now, the Republicans are willing to fix their mistakes; are the Democrats? I think it is doubtful, but this places the responsibility for failure back on the shoulders of Harry Reid and Barack Obama, squarely where they belong.
The last shift may be the most important, in the long term. Sen. Marco Rubio finally released major portions of his long awaited immigration plan
. Rubio’s plan would allow illegal aliens to get a pathway to a green card and citizenship, but unlike Obama, would not allow them to ‘jump the line’, as it were, and demand they enter the normal naturalization process with all those that have followed the law and applied for entry in the United States in the proper way.
Rubio’s position was quickly supported by Paul Ryan and others, and likely allows the GOP a workable way forward in the immigration debate. Rubio’s position is actually much more logical and a stronger position than that of Obama, which would give preference to illegals over those that followed the law; a policy which I believe the public would find abhorrent.
Whether the far right would accept this, or would still call it ‘amnesty’ is up for debate, and also there still needs to be a discussion about how to shore up border security. However, for the first time since President Bush suggested immigration reform in 2005, we are in a position of discussing policies, instead of simply playing a defensive posture going forward.
The path for the Republican Party is quite clear in these three examples. We must first accept the reality that we do not, in any real way, control Washington. Second, although the above is the case, we must still provide policy solutions to the problems at hand, and more specifically, show why Democrats positions are either untenable or simply ludicrous.
There are of course many potholes on the way for the GOP. And a comeback, politically speaking, is a long way off. But the seeds of how to get the Republican party moving in the right direction is here…if we look hard enough and accept it.