‘What’s His Plan Son’

It was one of those classic lines in cinema; Fred Thompson’s  kindly but gruff rebuke of Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan. “What’s his plan son? Ruskies don’t take a dump without a plan, and senior commanders don’t start something this risky without having thought the matter out.” Of course, since Fred left acting to return to politics, the notion of “thinking the matter through” seems to have left the Party that he loves. What a shame.

The Republican Party through the Clinton Era was something of a caged beast; they could take their shots at the President largely on the basis of character alone. President Clinton himself defused some of the animus, by steering to the right in support of issues long held dear by the left. Free trade policies were anathema to the Democrats and their union supporters, but were long the darlings of conservatives who could correctly point to the economic data on their side. Clinton, ever the academic, grasped the economic concepts of free trade, and seized on an opportunity to work with the opposition on an issue. His administration took similar positions on banking, deficit control, and welfare.

But the Clinton Era, far from bringing the two parties closer together, seeded the land for our 21st Century malaise. Hard fought battles on base-closing, don’t ask/don’t tell, and health reform kept the Republican base away. The legislative successes built together, from NAFTA, to the removal of Glass-Steagall, to the final deconstruction of the Interstate Commerce Commission and transportation price regulation, all convinced House Republicans and the monied interests behind them that Democratic Presidents (and Senators) could be easily cowed. The election of George W. Bush and the ease with which the Bush Administration shook off any suggestion of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, further convinced Republicans that theirs was a brand the country believed in.

Karl Rove predicted a permanent Republican majority, and the Republicans seized control of the Senate which, when aligned with their holding the White House and the house of Representatives meant that they could pass such legislation as they saw fit. Why? Because Democrats played by the old rules of civility in the Senate. Bills were allowed to pass into debate almost automatically, and only rarely were they ever openly stalled once on the floor. If a piece of legislation had 51 votes, it would pass. But all that changed after the elections of 2006 and 2008. Once the nation rebuked Republican politics, Republicans adopted a new plan; legislative obstruction paired with public misinformation.

It was a good plan, and one well within the Republican capabilities. Republicans were (and are) capable of the kind of win at any cost gamesmanship that so eludes Democrats. Democratic senators, ever aware of their precious poll numbers,would be easy to control; change the argument, label the bill, make people afraid of it, and watch the poll numbers fall. Democratic senators rarely show courage in the face of falling poll numbers, at least in some quarters. The strategy was contingent on Democratic weakness and infighting. It was also contingent on another important concept.

For Republicans to succeed, they had to convince a solid portion of the electorate of certain “truths”. It wasn’t important, necessarily, to teach the electorate economics (as was done during the NAFTA debate); it was important to construct arguments that would anger and scare the public. On the subject of health care, create an artificial element to the legislation (death panels), and do everything possible to avoid talking about the real problems. On the subject of national debt and budget deficit, continue to use the really big numbers, without providing context; call the $787 billion stimulus a $1 trillion stimulus. Say the stimulus doesn’t work when independent analysis says it has. When someone points out that the previous (Republican) administration doubled the debt, accuse the current administration of shifting blame. Do everything possible to avoid having a real discussion on the facts.

Now that it looks like Republicans have a chance to really swing the momentum in the midterms though, they have a problem. Those voters, and particularly the ones in the middle, have begun to ask what the Republican plan is. The GOP has convinced some percentage of the electorate that the Democrats have missed, and now that percentage wants to know how the GOP is going to get a hit. The most reactionary of the Republican elements, the Tea Partiers, proved to be very successful in reaping the benefits of the plan, but they gained popularity parroting talking points. In the United States of 2010, the voting public is far too sophisticated to buy talking points alone when it comes to a vote. Across the nation,  Tea Party candidates in districts where the Democratic incumbent is in trouble, are ceding ground in the polls.

The problem for Republicans is that they don’t really have a plan; they just took the dump. In Nevada, where Sue Lowden enjoyed a double digit lead over the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, Republicans took a hard look at her after some unfortunate comments. What they found is that her plan didn’t add up. The Lowden experience is now being repeated across the country.People are starting to question a Republican agenda that has been fueled by angry rhetoric, obstructionism, and little else.

Republicans are promising tax cuts to help the economy and Americans are wondering about the $1.8 trillion Bush tax cuts — if they didn’t help the economy, why should more do the trick? Republicans (like Sue Lowden) are promising to balance the budget while cutting taxes, without impinging middle class access to Social Security and Medicare; the math to support that promise hasn’t been invented. Americans are wondering why Republicans continue to criticize President Obama for the TARP plan George W. Bush signed into law. Americans are wondering why it was OK for unemployment to peak under Ronald Reagan in the summer of his second year, while it is Obama’s bad leadership to cause unemployment to peak in the fall of his first. Americans are wondering why Republicans are upset that the President was not more liberal before the oil spill — they must have wanted him to take a tougher stand on Big Oil — why else would a market failure be the President’s fault? Americans are getting tired of the now naked hypocrisy.

There is not a single Republican now running for office offering a different economic plan from the one executed — to the letter — during George W. Bush’s two terms in office. There is not a single Republican now running for office offering a different environmental/industrial plan than the one executed — to the letter — during George W. Bush’s two terms in office. There is not a single Republican now running for office offering a different national security plan than the one run — to the letter — during George W. Bush’s two terms in office. Do you remember what you thought of our country’s prospects in the fall of 2008? This is a democracy friends, if you liked our chances under W., feel free to vote Republican in November.

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Animated Balls: Election 2012

Episode 1: It's Hard to Choose Just One

Episode 2: Occupy Wall Street

Episode 3: 999! The Cain Train to Prosperity

Episode 4: Small Government

Episode 5: Newt is Forgiven

Episode 6: A Candidate with Big Balls

Episode 7: Why We Must Elect Rick!

Episode 8: Don't Make Me Use the "S" Word!

Episode 9: Santorum & Obamaville

Episode 10: Settle for Mitt!

Episode 12: Austerity and Obama's Debt!

Episode 13: From My Cold, Dead Hands!

Episode 14: Ryan is a Bold Choice for VP!

Episode 15: Mitt Romney's Taxes

Episode 16: Mitt & Me; 2 Peas in a Pod!

Episode 17: Mitt and the 47%

Episode 18: The PA Voter ID Law

Episode 19: The Boss is Running!

Episode 20: Benghazi Has Legs

Episode 21: Grover, the NRA, and the GOP

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