Does the House GOP Leadership Want to Lose?
Sorry I'm a bit behind the eight-ball on yesterday's NYT story about how GOP centrists are annoyed at a new fall schedule the leadership has laid out (I was gone all day on a birding trip and didn't feel the urge to blog when I got up at 3 a.m.). But I do have some thoughts on the piece.
According to the newly-released American Values Agenda, the House will be taking up a series of bills in the coming weeks and months that are simple wedge issues, from the "Pledge Protection Act" to the "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act" to the "Public Expression of Religion Act" and beyond, even extending to another crack at the already-failed "Marriage Amendment" and of course, more tax cuts. It is designed to force uncomfortable votes for Democrats before the fall's elections - but that discomfort extends to within the GOP's tattered "big tent," and some people aren't happy about it. Nor should they be.
Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, one of three centrist Republicans in that state whose seat is "in play" this fall, called the agenda "stupid and gross." He continued "They have this obsession to satisfy conservative Republicans who will probably be re-elected no matter what happens. They get job satisfaction, but they are making it more difficult for me to win my race." Another centrist Republican, Mike Castle of Delaware, agreed: "I don't think it is a good agenda to go into the election cycle with."
But the leadership says they don't care - apparently the votes won't be whipped, and "lawmakers could establish their independence by voting against select initiatives if they choose." The larger issue, they say, is that Democrats in conservative-leaning areas will be disadvantaged.
Shays suggested that this agenda helps "maybe 3" of the top competitive races this fall, and told the Times that he skipped a House GOP meeting this week rather than risk losing his temper over the plan.
If the House GOP leadership could have come up with a better way to play directly into the hands of the Democrats, I can't think what it is. As DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel put it, "It reminds people that the Republican Party is the party of Terry Schiavo" - he suggested that it could very much his candidates in various parts of the country.
Frankly at this point I'd like to see the Democrats win back control of the House this year, because I think the GOP's gone off the deep end. The problem is, those who stand to lose are not the deep-enders - it's the centrists like Shays, whose influence within the party is most sorely needed. Pushing this agenda (even if the moderates oppose it) allows the Democrats to tar and feather the GOP for the ideological montrosity that it has become.
If the leadership really wanted to make a good impression with the American people before the end of the year, it could do so ... or it can continue along this road to ruin and loss. Their staggering hubris will surely impel them down the "American Values Agenda" path, and it will only hurt the party in the end.