Republicans: Agenda ? We Don’t Need No Stinking Agenda

Some Republicans seem to think they don't need to put forward any actual ideas in order to win November.

Some Republicans seem to think that they don’t really need to worry about telling voters what they would do if they got control of Congress back:

Sometime after Labor Day, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner plans to unveil a blueprint of what Republicans will do if they take back control of the chamber. He promises it will be a full plate of policy proposals that will give voters a clear sense of how they would govern.

But will Republicans actually want to run on those ideas — or any ideas? Behind the scenes, many are being urged to ignore the leaders and do just the opposite: avoid issues at all costs. Some of the party’s most influential political consultants are quietly counseling their clients to stay on the offensive for the November midterm elections and steer clear of taking stands on substance that might give Democratic opponents material for a counterattack.

“The smart political approach would be to make the election about the Democrats,” said Neil Newhouse of the powerhouse Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which is advising more than 50 House and Senate candidates. “In terms of our individual campaigns, I don’t think it does a great deal of good” to engage in a debate over the Republicans’ own agenda.

Others are skeptical that any Republican policy proposals will have much of an impact. “They really still have to have a sharp contrast with the Democrats,” said John McLaughlin, another leading Republican pollster whose firm counts both the House and Senate campaign committees among its clients. “They really need to drive that home before people will be willing to listen to what Republicans stand for.”

It’s not that Boehner (Ohio) is arguing for a cease-fire. The debate among Republicans comes down to this: The speaker-in-waiting, for all his love of political combat, thinks that voters will not trust GOP candidates if their attacks don’t also provide at least some substance. The consultants argue that public anger, if properly stoked, alone can carry the party over the finish line. In their view, getting bogged down in the issues is a distraction and even a potential liability.

What do you really have, though, if you win an election based on properly stoking public anger. It seems to me that all you really end up with in that situation is a pyrrhic victory that doesn’t really constitute public support for any of the legislative goals you might actually try to accomplish.

Of course, even if the Republican to take back both Houses of Congress, which is highly unlikely by the way, their ability to actually get legislation passed will be pretty limited. President Obama will have the veto pen and they will not have a veto-proof majority. Additionally, as the Democrats themselves have discovered over the past 18 months, having a majority doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get bills passed without compromise of some kind (such as the decision to drop the public option from the health care reform bill). However, if the GOP doesn’t at least put forward some kind of idea of how they would govern if given power I don’t see how they come out of the November elections with anything other than a razor-thin majority in the House that is much less than meets the eye.

Being the “Party of No” may play well for the Tea Party crowd and Glenn Beck’s audience, but it’s not responsible governing.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Mithras says:

    If the Republicans win the House, they will start investigations into the Administration and eventually impeachment proceedings. That’s the whole plan. It’s the fulfillment of the far right rhetoric: Obama is illegitimate, foreign, criminal, and everything he does is in furtherance of a strategy that is dangerous to the U.S.

    This will be the strategy with every Democratic President forever. It almost worked with Clinton.

  2. john says:

    What do you get if you win an election by stoking public anger? You get a President Obama.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “Being the ‘Party of No’ may play well for the Tea Party crowd and Glenn Beck’s audience, but it’s not responsible governing.”

    As if the GOP even cares about responsible governing…

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Well Mithras, if Democratic Presidents would confine there activiies to remain within the law, they would not have that problem unless you believethe CEO of the United States should lie under oath. By the way Mithras, I don’t recall any proceedings against Truman, Kennedy, Johnson or Carter. Doug, why is it you seem to want to concentrate on Republicans when it is the Democrats who control both houses of Congress and are responsible for either the passage or the lack there of concerning legislation? Is it because you are a closet liberal or are you seriously out of the closet? Your BS reminds me of that which our President spewed today about how the Republicans blocked unemployment extentions. Lie. They just want the Democrats to pay for it. They have billions in unspent stimulous money but they want to increase the debt rather than spend the money they already have which is supposed to help the economy. Pelosi said unemployment is the best thing for the economy did she not? The lies of your commisars are obvious to the American people even if they fool you on a continuous basis. But then, judging by your comments here, that has been done long ago.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Interested, why not do a little research. Check out what Republicans added to the deficit when they were in control of congress as opposed to when the Democrats were in charge. The numbers will shock you. By the way, if you would unplug your ears. The Republicans stand for smaller government and lower taxes. Interested, was your job one of the ones saved by the Obama administration? Not.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    “The Republicans stand for smaller government and lower taxes.”

    While it is true that they scream “tax cuts” at every opportunity, it is a lie to say that they believe in smaller government, as they have done nothing to implement that goal when they held power…

    “Interested, was your job one of the ones saved by the Obama administration? Not.”

    Ahh, is that why you are so bitter? Because you are currently out of work and sucking off the government teat…while railing against that same government that is sending you checks…

  7. ponce says:

    I think what the cowardly Republicans are trying to sell America is known as “A pig in a poke.”

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    Er,um,ah,um,um, hope and change? Er,um, ah,er.um, yes we can?

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Ahh, is that why you are so bitter? Because you are currently out of work and sucking off the government teat…while railing against that same government that is sending you checks…***

    No we are bitter about people who have never worked like the welfare generations, and most government union employees, and people who should not be working like the illegal alien racists who have sucked far more then the government’s teats all most completely off.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Being the “Party of No” may play well for the Tea Party crowd and Glenn Beck’s audience, but it’s not responsible governing.***

    How in the great btpsded hell is saying NO to a half a$$ed communist dictatorship not responsible governing?

    When it’s like the will of the people!?!?!?! not to mention logical, constitutional,and the RIGHT thing to do?

  11. Tano says:

    “It seems to me that all you really end up with in that situation is a pyrrhic victory that doesn’t really constitute public support for any of the legislative goals you might actually try to accomplish.”

    They don’t particularly care about accomplishing anything. They will not see the victory as pyrrhic – they will gain power, which they will then use to enrich themselves, just as they did the last time they held power.

    This is the consequence of a generation of the Reaganist attitude – that government is inherently a problem. Republicans simply do not have a positive vision of governance. They seek the power, but have no idea what to do with it when they achieve it. That is why you get corruption – how do you make the everyday decisions of governance if you really don’t even believe the government has a right to make such decisions? Eventually, you allow you ear to be bent by those nice, and generous people who surround you, and who helped you win power in the first place. So long as they keep being nice and generous, of course.

    One of the unremarked upon facts of today’s political dynamic, is that the Republicans in Congress are less supported, less respected than the Dems, and certainly less than the President. The voters may show some support for them so long as they just complain about the administration – when times are tough, there is always a market for complaining. But they really have nothing positive to offer – nothing that the people would support, if subject to the scrutiny of a campaign.

    Remaining agendaless is the Republicans best hope – and that is already shaping up as the driving dynamic of this race. The GOP wants it to be a referendum on Obama (actually, on life in general). The Dems want the race to be a choice between two sets of policies.

    The Dems seem to have the advantage here, given that it is, objectively, a choice between two policy sets. It remains to be seen if they can mine that advantage effectively.

  12. sam says:

    GA as Fred C. Dobbs channeling Elmer Fudd: You wotten wiberals…nobody puts one over on G.A. Phiwwips.

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    Think of politics like a golf game. No one is paying much attention while you’re driving down the fairway. When we get down to the short strokes on the green everyone is focussed on the action. And this is what will happen in September-November. All of a sudden people are going to be faced with a real choice not an abstract one between “the government” and some amorphous alternative. It will be “do I want the Democrats running things or the Republicans” and they are going to hear lots of messages from both sides reminding them what the party’s records are and what they stand for. The Republicans can try to avoid telling people what they stand for, but don’t worry the Democrats will remind them and they have plenty of material to work with. There message is going to be simple and we know what it will be because the president has given a couple of preview. The Republicans ran the bus off the road and we’ve put it back on the highway despite their efforts to stop us. I doubt “Democrats Bad” is going to be a very effective response but I guess we’ll see.

  14. tom p says:

    ***“In terms of our individual campaigns, I don’t think it does a great deal of good” to engage in a debate over the Republicans’ own agenda.***

    and

    ***In their view, getting bogged down in the issues is a distraction and even a potential liability.***

    Pretty much says it all.

    As far as,***The speaker-in-waiting, for all his love of political combat, thinks that voters will not trust GOP candidates if their attacks don’t also provide at least some substance. ***

    My question is why would anyone ever trust the GOP after what they did to us?