Shutting down the government may not be the dumbest thing the Republican Party ever did.
But it’s definitely Top Five.
It’s tough to figure out which is most idiotic: the GOP following through on its threat, thinking a shutdown would benefit them politically, or its leaders ignoring history.
In any case, the Republicans just handed a huge victory to their greatest nemesis, making themselves look extreme and allowing President Obama to come out smelling like a rose.
About the only silver lining in this debacle is that we will undoubtedly see House Speaker John Boehner cry again. If nothing else, he has a career in soap operas.
In 1994, Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in 50 years, and the GOP was in firm control. President Clinton was on the ropes, Hillary had become the devil incarnate for her strident advocacy of national healthcare, and people held high hopes for Republican stewardship.
So what did the “Gingrich Revolution” leaders do with their newfound popularity?
They squandered it — by shutting down the government. In doing so, they revived the president, who masterfully used the White House as a bully pulpit to chastise “irresponsible” Republicans. And because of the GOP’s inability to express a resonating message, Clinton successfully painted them as sulking crybabies who didn’t play nicely when things didn’t go their way.
It’s not very often I agree with President Obama, but he’s exactly right: “One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election.”
The GOP is re-fighting the election, and that is the real issue here. They got walloped, despite holding all the cards heading into 2012. But party leaders, hell-bent on playing the blame game, continue to self-destruct rather than looking at the only place that really matters: the mirror.
So why would the Republicans do this when any eighth grader knows they can’t win? And how could they not see that their actions would help resuscitate a president reeling from Benghazi, Syria, the NSA, IRS, and AP scandals, unpopular policies, and a still-shaky economy?
Because of arrogance; inside-the-Beltway aloofness; woefully bad political calculation; and maybe even outright stupidity.
But the No. 1 reason? The Republican Party has become visionless, bereft of ideas, lacking a leader smart enough to craft a message, and charismatic enough to articulately deliver it. Like his policies or not, Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, was the last of his party to have such qualities. And that is why, despite Democratic Congresses, he achieved so many victories.
But now, the rudderless GOP has devolved into the Party of No, unable to offer solutions, and incapable of articulating what it stands for. It’s never enough to just be against something. Americans expect optimism from their leaders, yet the GOP too often bashes when it should be advocating.
The result is a self-imposed quagmire. Instead of re-capturing the White House and winning control of the Senate last year, the party imploded. It’s coronation of ultra-out-of-touch Mitt Romney, whose “turn it was” (exactly like Bob Dole and John McCain), along with poorly messaged Senate campaigns, destroyed any hope of success.
This monumental failure, lest we forget, came during rampant unemployment, rising inflation, exorbitant gas prices, a world literally on fire, and a president who instituted unpopular policies such as Obamacare.
It should’ve been a gimme for the GOP to garner 50 in the Senate, if not more, especially since two-thirds of the contested seats were held by Democrats. But they did the impossible, losing two.
And that losing will continue, as the shutdown will eventually end with Republicans amassing nothing but scorn and embarrassment.
Had Republicans, with their historic majorities under George W. Bush, enacted their own healthcare reforms, there wouldn’t be Obamacare. And had they focused more on concrete ideas than throwing hyperpartisan red meat to the extreme, they would now control the Senate, able to amend the many parts of Obamacare that need changing.
But they didn’t do either.
So here’s an idea. Instead of continuing their failed strategy, Republicans should re-invent their party, addressing America’s pressing problems with common sense and reasonable ideas, free of inflammatory rhetoric. Do that, and the party has a real shot at winning the Senate in 2014 and the White House two years later. Then, and only then, should it be concerned with the funding and implementation of Obamacare.
While a bitter pill to swallow, the GOP would be well-served to acknowledge that the Democrats won in 2012 because the Republican Party took a holiday from being Republican.
The GOP isn’t healthy now, but shutting down the government isn’t the prescription to make it well. For proof, just ask Newt Gingrich.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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