Grand Overreach Party

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The Republican beatdown of the Democrats in 2010 was huge. It was a beatdown of historic proportions.

The Republican beatdown of the Democrats in 2010 was huge. It was a beatdown of historic proportions. They flipped governorships, state Houses and Senates, and everything short of the bird at President Obama – and some Republicans surely felt like they did with such a resounding victory. At the time, I commented that the GOP leadership with Boehner, and the soon to be departed Michael Steele seemed to be pretty humble about their success. They seemed to have acknowleged that such a resounding victory might have been as much about rejecting Democratic ineptitude as it was about endorsing Republican policies. Boy was I wrong. The last few weeks have shown that the Grand Ole’ Party is the Grand Overreach Party as Republicans across the nation have essentially blown all their political capitol in two months.  Right after the midterms, many Democratic friends of mine were sure that the fall had to be an aberration, that the real problem was bad messaging by Democrats, or an inability of the public to understand what Obama was selling. I disagreed then, and I still disagree with that assessment, in retrospect. Democrats lost because what Obama was selling wasn’t what people wanted to buy. If everyone comes to your restaurant and says they want to buy a turkey sandwich, and you’re serving ham and turkey combos because you say it’s a better deal, customers are going to start dining elsewhere. They wanted turkey, and you weren’t selling turkey. Obama came into office saying he was going to improve the economy, the voters wanted him to improve the economy. Instead, he worked on health care, which should, in the long term, improve the economy but that’s not what people wanted to hear and thus they rejected the Dems at the polls. Now Republicans are making the same mistake while Democrats seem to have learned something for once. The economy is still in the gutter, there are still millions of men and women who have been out of work for months, or worse, have job offers but can’t move to accept them because they can’t get out of a lousy mortgage situation. Republicans were swept into office because many American voters believed that Democrats were moving too slow on their promises or perhaps weren’t equipped to deliver on them. But instead of moving on the economy the way the public wants the Republicans are selling ham/turkey combos. This GOP obsession in the Congress about budget deficits and the debt is not what the public wants to hear about. No one cares about the debt, and while closing budget gaps may have long term benefits for the economy, just like with health care, it doesn’t do anything NOW and that’s what the public wants. Polls have shown increasing distaste for GOP cost cutting measures that may balance the books of Washington but aren’t improving the checkbooks of Main Street America. When House Majority leader John Boehner acknowledges that his party’s proposed budget would cut about 700,000 jobs, essentially killing whatever minor recovery the nation might be going through he just shrugs his shoulders and talks about how this is helping our grandkids. No one’s thinking about their grandkids right now when grandmas can’t even afford their medicine. What’s worse is that the Republicans are making equally bad choices on the state level which is where some of their most important victories occurred. Winning governorships in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, key states that Obama has to win in 2012, seemed like a huge success for Republicans. But instead of focusing on jobs, governors like Scott Walker and John Kasich have gone after state employee unions. That has galvanized a long dormant Midwestern affection for unions, leading to Democratic senators in Indiana and Wisconsin fleeing state houses to stop legislation and protests of up to 40,000 people in Columbus, Ohio. And most political analysis reveals that many of these angered union voters are the very Independents that swung these states from blue to red just four months ago. Republicans have taken one of the greatest nationwide political victories of the last century and turned it into a political millstone before the Fourth of July. It’s still possible for Republicans to clean up this mess they’ve made but they don’t have much time. As they battle over budgets and debt, unemployment continues to drop and the economy continues to improve. If we’re looking at 8 percent or less unemployment by 2012, Obama’s re-election is almost assured, making 2010 victories a distant memory.  Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture and the politics of sports.


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