One year out from the midterm election the Republican strategy for 2010 is starting to come into focus, and it looks like it might just work. The Republicans seem to have decided that they have no hope flipping the new “Obama voters.” The young people, African Americans, and Hispanics that don’t historically have not voted in large numbers but did turn out in droves in 2008. The Republican label is toxic among these groups and the congressional Republicans current policy positions are doing nothing to change that impression.
The thing is, Republicans don’t need to win these voters over, they just need to make sure the Democrats lose them. The Democratic majorities are so large because they road a wave of unprecedented base turnout in 2008. This kamikaze attempt to kill support for both parties might not be enough to put the Republicans back in the majority, but suppressing the Democratic base should help them at least reclaim a dozen or more traditionally Republican districts.
Dragging their heels, endless delaying, obstructing everything, screaming about overreach and government takeovers has tanked the Republican brand. But it has succeeded in paralyzing enough conservative Democrats at just the wrong moment. The country is in bad shape, and the Democrats need act fast and decisively to deliver. The Republicans scared Democrats into passing an insufficient stimulus package, and have so far stopped them from trying again.
I don’t think most Americans really care about general “government overreach,” they are angry about failed overreach. Do you really think there would be nearly as much populist anger against TARP if it caused the unemployment rate to be rapidly slashed to 5%. You can’t stir up anger against effective government action. What you can do is easily build a populist rage against failed government action, or worse, corporate welfare that only benefits the super rich. The unemployment rate is now over 10% and the Democrats need to act fast before 2010. They need more stimulus to turn around the economy. They need to pass programs that would offer immediate relief to Americans in need. They need to show their voters that they are working for them and not the bankers. If Democrats don’t act fast to turn around the economy, they will get the blame.
The other collateral benefit for the Republicans is that their obstructionism has laid bare the problems with the Democratic party. The Republicans are fortunate that Democrats control Congress with super-majorities. It is now the fault of Democrats that their party’s promises are going unfulfilled. If health care reform does not pass, it is because Democrats stopped it. If there is no public option, it is solely because Democrats killed it. The only reason “don’t ask don’t tell” and immigrant reform might not be dealt with is because Democrats choose not to address the issues. Failure to act on their promises is a recipe for a suppressed Democratic base.
The Republican actions are doing nothing to improve the country’s opinion of the party, or winning it new voters, but elections are a zero sum game. If they can remain successful in scaring the conservative Democrats into inaction, the Republicans will win by default. The Democrats will be facing two opponents in 2010. The electorate will choosing between Democrats, Republicans, and staying home. Democrats can’t allow their fear to stop them from fulfilling their promises. That would only make staying home the top election night choice for the new “Obama voters.” In this three-way race, Republicans know they only need to come in second.