Looking For a Comeback
Rush Limbaugh caused some controversy (as per normal) with his declaration that he hoped Obama wouldn’t succeed. Granted, he qualified his statement by saying that he only wished Obama ill if his politics were liberal, but everyone knows they will be, and the point was clear—Rush Limbaugh is not rooting for Barack Obama.
Most Republicans wouldn’t be caught dead saying that—the official line is that they really hope that Obama’s presidency is a success. And perhaps that’s true in theory. Most conservatives would rather see the country in better shape at the end of Obama’s first term than at the beginning, and hope that his policies will help the nation. (And in fairness, I must confess that most of his cabinet choices have been much better than conservatives could have expected). But most conservatives are certain that Obama’s policies won’t work (and they haven’t shown much promise so far; stimulus packages, which are the centerpiece of Obama’s policy, no matter how big, rarely if ever work), and career Republicans hope Obama fails because otherwise they’ll be out of a job.
These hopes are tempered by the fact that pretty much everyone hates the Republican party right now. Even Republicans. Many political strategists and pundits (on both sides) think that the GOP is in for a long rebuilding period, which will fundamentally transform the party.
Not necessarily. There is ample reason to look for a Republican revival, or more accurately a Democratic failure. This, of course, was the strategy Democrats used in 2006 and 2008—the Republicans made themselves unpopular, and the Democrats cleaned up. Democrats didn’t win those years by reminding people they were Democrats; they won (in large part, at any rate) by telling people they weren’t Republicans. When the Republicans get back into power (and they will, eventually), that is almost certainly how they’ll do it. And there are quite a few chinks in the Democrat armor to exploit.
First, there are the numerous corruption scandals. When Republicans controlled the country, it seemed like every other Republican politician was engaged in scandal. But since most of the most obviously corrupt Republicans were voted out, and there are now many more Democrat leaders, the situation is reversed—now it’s the Democrats who face embarrassing stories of corruption.
Governor Rod Blagovich is the best example, because of his Obama connection and nigh-delusional arrogance. And Charlie Rangel, Chris Dodd, and Barney Frank all have ethical issues of their own, which can be exploited by Republican challengers. Of course, Hillary Clinton, as always, is in a class by herself—the shady dealings of the Clinton Foundation are prime political ammunition.
And now that the Democrat party is firmly entrenched, Republicans have something to fight against. It was always extremely hard for conservative Republicans to argue their case as long as fellow Republican George Bush was in the White House. (And if Bush was no conservative, it is equally true he wasn’t a liberal). Now, if (when) things go bad, Republicans can place the blame squarely on someone else’s shoulders.
And finally, Barack Obama himself, depending on how he governs, is either the Republicans strongest card or greatest threat. If he governs well (or seems to, which is much more important), then Republicans thinking of running for public office might want to think about waiting for 2014. But if not, then his performance will be an invaluable argument for Republicans.
It is far, far to early to even make an early judgment as to the effectiveness of Obama’s administration. One thing is for certain, though—there won’t be a honeymoon period. Obama is expected to start on his economic plan immediately, which represents a very difficult task, and has already blown off the Politico and (accidentally) insulted Rush Limbaugh. Nobody really cares about either mistake (and the Politico incident, while Obama doubtless wishes it hadn’t happened, wasn’t anything Obama could have predicted), but it does remind some of the fact that when off script, Obama can deliver gaffes as devastating as anything Joe Biden can come up with.
I hope that Obama leaves the nation in better shape than it was when he found it. I’m almost certain he won’t, and would much rather have a Republican government in 2012. And while things do look bad for the Republican party right now, a quick comeback is well within the realm of possibility.