Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do Republicans want to govern?

Type "Republican 2010 agenda" into google, and you know what you get? A lot of links to articles discussing whether Republicans will ever get an actual agenda. This seems strange to me. People running for office must have some idea of what they want to do to make government work and improve the lives of Americans, right?

Or not. This article by Richard E. Cohen appearing in Politico does a reasonable job summarizing the lack of focus to be currently found among Republicans, who allegedly have a shot at getting control of Congress this year.

"Republicans want to assure voters that they will change direction if they take control of the House in November... Yet there will be no grand agenda rollout on the Capitol steps in Washington this fall, as Republicans did with the Contract With America in 1994."

Cohen makes an interesting point when discussing the very few things that the Republican leadership has been willing to say about the detail of their policies.

"those details fall short of compelling economic policy — and some of the grass-roots concepts will need to be reined in by Republican leaders.

On the America Speaking Out website, some of the leading ideas for job creation are outside the political mainstream, including elimination of minimum-wage laws and deportation of all illegal immigrants."

"Grass-roots concepts"
that "will need to be reined in by Republican leaders"? Brother, you ain't kidding. Out in the heartland, Republicans have ideas all right. And I don't think it's an overstatement to say that those ideas are more about dogma than they are about problem solving.

House members Michele Bachmann and Steve King are two of the leading lights of the tea party movement. They have, quite literally, no legislative agenda. According to Bachmann, if Republicans will the House in November, "all we should do" is subpoena and investigate the Obama administration. Asked by reporters what specific laws he'd offer as a legislator carrying the tea party banner into the House, Steve King said the only thing he could think of was, "a law requiring members to cite the Constitution when sponsoring legislation."

Some of the other great ideas Republican leaders have to offer:

* Social security might have a long-term solvency problem? Force people to work until they're 70, and deny benefits to people with other income. Or just abolish social security.

* Racial strife a problem in America? Condemn the Civil Rights Act. (Until your opinions become unpopular. Then apologize for airing your views on television. After all, what right does the public have to know where candidates for public office stand on the issues?)

* Big Oil spilling petroleum all over the place? Time to deregulate the oil industry.

* Religious prejudice still troubling Americans? Announce that Islam is a cult.

* A woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape cannot obtain access to abortion? It's God's will.

* Scientists say that human activity is causing climate change that will have catastrophic effects? Announce that global warming doesn't exist.

* Controlled substances still an issue? Suggest the prohibition of alcohol. Wait...WHAT?!

To summarize, what Richard Cohen says in his article on the GOP agenda (or lack thereof) is a lot like what David Broder said in the Washington Post article I wrote about earlier this month. Specifically, that the Republicans need to "reign in the crazies." From what I can tell, journalists like to think that there's some kind of divide between the uninformed, kooky grass-roots elements of the Republican party and it's more sensible, serious leadership. But again, take a look at the source of opinions on the issues that I have linked above. You'll find House minority leader John Boehner, and high-profile Senate recruits Sharron Angle and Rand Paul. The good-government Republicans are all long retired. (There really is a lot of money in lobbying you know.)

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