Some Republicans Uneasy with the Party of No
"Ninety percent of life," Woody Allen famously said, "is just showing up." For Congressional Republicans, the other 10% is voting no. But despite the apparent success of their unprecedented obstructionism, heading into the midterm elections a handful of Republicans are starting to get a little uncomfortable with only being the Party of No.
When House Minority Leader John Boehner promised in July to roll out "a blueprint of what Republicans will do if they take back control of the chamber," many Republicans balked. New York GOP Congressman Peter King worried, "I don't think we have to lay out a complete agenda, from top to bottom, because then we would have the national mainstream media jumping on every point trying to make that a campaign issue." Republican pollster Neil Newhouse concurred, "The smart political approach would be to make the election about the Democrats," adding "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.
But that consensus view is not shared by all of the leading lights of the GOP.
In July, former House Speaker and future 2012 White House hopeful Newt Gingrich complained:
"Consultants, in my opinion, are stupid. The least idea-oriented, most mindless campaign of simplistic slogans is a mindless idea."
Appearing yesterday on Fox News Sunday, John McCain, too, insisted to host Chris Wallace, "I think Senate and House Republicans should come forward with an agenda before the election." Of course, what McCain proposed differed little from the 1994 "Contract with America" or this summer's Tea Party "Contract from America":
"I think we'll do very well [in November]. I think that's obvious. The question is how well do we do. And I think then that we get down to, I believe, that Republicans have to come up with a contract for, with, of -- whatever you want to call it -- America.
And I think a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution has to be part of it, elimination of earmarking and pork-barrel spending, repeal and replace 'Obamacare.' We have to have a short list of promises we'll make the American people and keep it.
But I really think that the -- that this election could be a seismic election. But we've got to give Americans a reason to be for us rather than be just against the Democrats and the president."
On Sunday, South Carolina Senator and McCain Mini-Me Lindsey Graham seconded that emotion. As Politico noted:
The senator added that if the elections "were held tomorrow," the GOP would make substantial gains.
But Graham noted that the Republicans need a plan to win the votes of the American people, something like the "Contract for America," he said.
For his part, former Nebraska Senator and new Republican persona non grata Chuck Hegel lamented the descent of his GOP colleagues into the embrace of the "no, no, no" agenda:
"I don't see them presenting any alternatives, any new options or any new thinking. If the Republicans get back in power, what are they going to do? There is no articulation. It's just a 'no no no, I'm against Obama because he's a socialist and he's taking America in the wrong direction.' That's certainly an opinion, but what about you, Mr. Republican? What would you do?"
Not that there's any shortage of plans from the GOP brain trust. But the tired ideas (for example, the 2010 Tea Party "Contract from America, the 2008 Republican platform and the 1994 "Contract for America" are almost identical) are now merely warmed over. Proposals like privatizing Social Security and rationing Medicare also happen to be wildly unpopular. It's no wonder John Boehner, John McCain and even fellow "Young Gun" Eric Cantor have refused to endorse Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" touting those and other radical policies.
Nevertheless, would-be Speaker Boehner plans to move forward with some kind of positive program for the sprint to November. As NPR suggested last week, "GOP Promises Detailed Agenda, If Not a 'Contract'." But if Boehner's speech on the economy in Cleveland two weeks ago is any indication, that document will just be list of what Republicans are against. (Endless investigations of the Obama White House appear to be the only thing a new GOP House majority seems to be for.) Or as Politico put it, "Not a Contract with America, but a Contract on Obama."
If you believe our elected officials should say “No” when you “Know” that this country is heading in the wrong direction, then we should be The Party of No since in reality we are The Party Of Know.