Friday, November 17, 2006

Lusting after power: The partisan attack strategies of the House Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Democrats settle into majority status in the House — with the contentious battle between Murtha and Hoyer now behind us — Republicans are strategizing on how best to bring them down over the next two years. And that strategizing is playing out in the contest for the position of minority whip between incumbent Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Shadegg of Arizona. The Hill reports:

Leadership candidates have highlighted their plans to hammer the incoming Democratic majority for ethical lapses, fiscal irresponsibility and legislative mismanagement, borrowing from a playbook those same Democrats used with great success to unseat the Republican majority.

Leadership hopefuls have made regaining the majority the central thrust of their campaigns, but rank-and-file members are debating as to which candidates can successfully implement their attack strategies as well as the particulars of the individual plans.

Blunt has even put together a strategy memo entitled “24 Months to a New Republican Majority — A Plan for Victory”. The Hill calls it “a detailed roadmap,” which seems like excessive credit for what is really just the same old vicious partisanship from a party that has been reduced to rubber stamping President Bush’s executive power grab on issues like torture and domestic wiretapping, pushing plutocratic tax cuts, and latching on to non-starters like Social Security privatization. And so we are told that, for example, that the memo “outlines amendments [Blunt] would offer to projected votes implementing pay-go rules in the budget process, raising the minimum wage and allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies”.

Can’t have any of that. For the Republicans, all that matters is power. They lost it and they want it back. Evidently, though, they don’t quite get why they lost it, why the American people turned on them in such overwhelming numbers.

Democrats in the House, as well as in the Senate, will face relentless attacks over the next two years. But they are now an effective check on presidential absolutism on Iraq and the war on terror and they have an agenda that works for the American people on issues like national security, health care, the minimum wage, and stem-cell research. If the Republicans want to block that agenda, if they think that blocking it will return them to power, that’s fine with me, politically speaking. It’s a losing strategy. The American people will be hurt by it — and therein lies my objection to it — but it will also expose the Republicans for what they are. Just let them run on it in ‘08.

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