One might have thought they would have learned their lesson in 2006. One might be pardoned for thinking that at last they would see the light in 2008. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Party has learned nothing and is poised to hand Democrats an unprecedented third victory in a row in the 2010 Congressional elections.
How are the Republicans failing? Let me count the ways:
1) The Blagojevich Scandal - It's pretty clear that Barack Obama has nothing to do with Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell Obama's senate seat. Republican U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made a point of saying so. Republicans are making a strategic error to focus so much attention on the Blagojevich case, because it will ultimately result in unflattering comparisons being drawn to another case prosecuted by Fitzgerald: the case of Scooter Libby. While Republicans did everything they could to shield Libby (and Rove and Cheney), Democrats are working overtime to help Fitzgerald bring down Blagojevich. While the identity of the whistle-blower who brought Blagojevich down has not been revealed, it's a safe bet it was a Democrat. When Blagojevich is convicted, he will serve time. There will be no commutation and no pardon for Blagojevich.
Contrast that with the case of Libby. The Bush White House devoted a tremendous amount of energy to covering up the crooked activities of Libby, Rove and Cheney (and succeeded in shielding Rove and Cheney). When Libby was convicted and sentenced to serve time, Bush commuted his jail time. When Libby was slapped with a fine, Republicans passed the hat and paid Scooter Libby's fine for him. In all probability, Bush will pardon Libby on his way out of the White House and Libby will receive a cushy, well paid job in a Republican think tank.
Neither major party is completely free of corruption: that is the human condition. But Democrats are going to show they know how to clean house, while Republicans have shown that they prefer to sweep things under the carpet and cover them up.
2) Obstructionism - Republicans are awakening to the potential power (and abuse of power) made possible by the filibuster, a practice they seriously considered doing away with a few years ago (the so-called "nuclear option"). The filibuster makes it possible for the minority power to block legislation in the Senate so long as they have 41 votes, even though that is less than a majority. This power serves an important purpose in curbing abusive and over-reaching law makers, like those of the Republican Party from 1994 through 2006. But if Republican Senators plan to abuse the filibuster, they are tap dancing in a minefield.
How does one abuse the filibuster? The answer to that question is largely one of perception. You are abusing the filibuster when voters perceive you to have obstructed important legislation and they vote you out of office. The Republican Senators in the Senate from 2006 through 2008 abused the filibuster, and now there are a lot fewer of them. They are poised to repeat the mistake in the years 2008 to 2010, with the result that there will be fewer of them after 2010.
3) Neo-Hooverism and Class Warfare - Last week the Republicans in the U.S. Senate may have thrown away Republican electoral chances in the "Rust Belt" states for a generation when they blocked legislation that would have saved something like 3 to 5 million American jobs in those states. We're talking about states like Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. These are all states that went Democratic this year, but have always been critical to past Republican presidential victories.
Republicans seem to believe that by eliminating these jobs, weakening unions and bringing on a second Great Depression they can place themselves in a favorable position for future elections. I had a "heated" discussion about this Republican "philosophy" with a young man in business school who identified himself as an "idealist Republican." I told him politely (as I could manage) that the millions of people he wanted to make jobless and homeless might see things otherwise than he did. He responded that 95% aren't even educated enough to vote properly.
I suspect this young man's outlook is not all that rare among Republicans. I often see Republican bloggers opining that their party lost because it "wasn't conservative enough," and they deplore so-called "RINO's" who show any willingness to compromise or weaken their party's class war against middle class and working class Americans.
These three factors should serve as a point of departure for Democrats who want to talk about the Republican Party's current direction. Shaun Kenney is one of a handful of Republican bloggers I respect, primarily for his dedication to the craft/art/hobby of political blogging. But in my humble opinion Mr. Kenney is wrong when he suggests that the Republican Party's ideology is basically sound. Mr. Kenney seems to believe that where the Republican Party has fallen behind is in the area of messaging. I believe that the Republican Party has become wildly out of step with the everyday realities of American life, and no amount of messaging can overcome that fact so long as there is freedom of expression and Democrats offer a message that is at once more realistic, more inclusive, and more hopeful.
The simple fact is that there are tens of millions of Americans who refuse to lay down and die the way Malthus and the leading intellectuals of the Republican Party believe they should.