By orchestrating a government shutdown, House Republicans have backed themselves into a corner that threatens the future of the party.
Their willingness to embark on a fool’s errand to repeal, defund, or delay the Affordable Care Act through the budget and appropriation process indicates that they have forgotten what it takes to be a viable national party. To be a national party you don’t do things that enhance the reputation of the opposition, you don’t advocate for policy that alienates the fastest growing segments of the population, and you don’t change the media cycle at a time when it is working to your advantage.
The GOP's aspiration to remain a viable national party is being undermined by a faction of the party that owes its allegiance to the narrowest segment of its base. That segment of the party advocates for policies that do not resonate with the majority of voters, and the resultant government shutdown, plus the lost battle over Obamacare, could represent the end of the party as we know it today.
It was a foregone conclusion that the House proposals to defund or delay Obamacare were dead on arrival in the Senate, yet they marched on to the beat of a drummer that can only be heard in the densest conservative environs. It was not principle that motivated this action, it was a myopic arrogance fueled by constituents who appear to be out of touch with America.
Republicans are defending positions that don’t seem to enhance their ability to be more than a regional party. They have walked away from comprehensive immigration reform, they have moved to cut nutrition and food subsidy programs, and now they are jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States. In this latest go-round they have even rejected the Democrats agreeing to the funding allocations they proposed in the continuing resolution. Yes, the Republicans have rejected their own funding provision all for the sake of regional politics. Truly all politics are local in the minds of House Republicans, even if it doesn’t move the country forward.
For a party that made outreach a part of its national strategy, it baffles the mind how the Republicans would advocate positions that further alienate the very segments of society that they targeted for outreach. The House Republicans do not support the legalization of marijuana, nor do they support same sex marriage, in fact House Republicans recently introduced a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. That will surely affect their ability to appeal to millennials. Their position on health care and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will alienate them with low-income Americans. Their position on the ACA and Planned Parenthood will harshly affect women’s health care, particularly reproductive rights and preventive health care. Their position on immigration reform will affect their ability to attract large swaths of the Latino and Asian-American communities. All of these positions, along with the party's continued fervor to suppress voter turnout, will reinforce the well-founded belief that they don’t care about the African-American community.
This past summer, The House Republican Conference released a 31-page guide suggesting that Republicans pay attention to women and minorities during the summer recess. Instead, Republicans have moved forward with the same policies that alienated the majority of people that voted in the 2012 general election. In that election they lost the female, millennial, and minority vote, lost seats in the House, and the Democrats increased seats in the Senate — not to mention, Obama was reelected by 5 million votes and received 62% of the electoral vote. In fact despite the fact that the Republicans hold a majority in the House, Democrats received more votes than Republicans, a clear indication that Republican policies do not resonate with a majority of the voting public.
No one knows what the endgame is for House Republicans. The faction that is in charge is doing things that actually enhance Obama’s ability to look presidential and foster resentment among millions of working Americans. At a time when Obama’s approval ratings are slipping and he is taking heat in his strongest area, foreign policy, over Syria and Iran, House Republicans have diverted the nation’s attention to an economic crisis of their own making.
This is not a smart strategy for a party looking to take the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016. An ultra-conservative, far-right Congress with an ultra-conservative, far right White House is a configuration unlikely to find its way to fruition in today’s America.
Now that the Republican Party has orchestrated a shutdown of the federal government, the question becomes, how does this enhance their ability to remain a national party? What’s the endgame?
House Republicans have gotten what they wanted — a government shutdown. Now what?