Have Republicans learned anything since 2008? After three years of talk about Barack Obama being a one-term loser it strains the imagination to think that the destructive behavior during the Republican primaries is the lead up to winning the 2012 election. We will not get another chance at the White House until 2016. Here are five bad habits that alienate Republican supporters and will cost votes.
1. Blaming the Voters
Rick Santorum recently suggested that unemployment checks might prevent Americans from looking hard enough to find another job, or to start a business. Mr. Santorum should consider whether focusing on record unemployment, a business-hostile environment, and a Democratic Congress in charge at the height of the downturn should take precedence over pointing fingers at Americans who have lost their jobs.
Not all of the jobless are Democrats. Telling voters what a dim view the party takes of their job search efforts and threatening unemployment benefits is not going to help Republican candidates get elected. Stop blaming the voters. Blame Obama. The president has been blaming George W. Bush and the GOP for his own failings, including the unemployment rate, at every opportunity.
2. Encouraging Divisiveness Over Religion
Americans pride themselves on living in a country that believes in religious freedom. One of the earliest lessons we learned in school was about the Pilgrims’ journey to America. Why, then, does an election cause us to draw battle lines based on our religious beliefs, as if the concept of religious freedom suddenly has no meaning?
The president’s religion will not matter when America runs out of money. Voters and the GOP need to get their heads screwed on straight. Is it more important to decide whether a Catholic or a Mormon should occupy the White House while ironically endorsing religious freedom, or to agree that anyone who is not Barack Obama will be a vast improvement?
Last summer we were talking about fiscal Armageddon. Our near useless Congress stalled on the debt ceiling and precipitated another historic first, America’s credit downgrade. This is what the Congressional Budget Office is telling us about the White House’s 2013 budget:
The President’s budget contains a host of proposed changes to spending and revenue policies. By CBO’s estimate, those policy changes would, on net, add about $2.9 trillion to projected deficits over the 2013–2022 period and necessitate $0.6 trillion in additional interest payments (because of increased federal borrowing).¹
Over the 2013-2022 period, the cumulative deficit that would result from enacting the President’s budget – $6.4 trillion (or 3.2 percent of GDP) – would be $3.5 trillion larger than the cumulative deficit projected under current law.²
Sound like a plan? When our economy finally implodes because of spending that escalates each and every year no matter what we hear from Washington about fiscal responsibility it is not going to matter where the president worships. Religious distinctions will not seem nearly so important when we are scrabbling for scraps in the streets while trying to learn to speak Chinese.
3. Arguing Over Who is the Most Conservative
This is polarizing, divisive campaign nonsense that makes conservatives look like confused malcontents incapable of deciding who or what they want. Compared to the president all three Republican candidates are more than conservative enough. The issue in this year’s race is not who the real conservative is. It is how far this type of damaging rhetoric can be pushed before we alienate voters who could otherwise be pulled away from the Democratic Party. In the interest of trying to win this election, let’s settle on the label that matters: the conservative who can defeat Obama.
4. Disguising Big Government
Being conservative does not mean endorsing big government schemes and assuming no one will notice because they come from a Republican. GOP voters know big government when they see it.
Rick Santorum is threatening big government intervention that may play well with social conservatives (see: Will Social Conservatives Accept the Big Picture for 2012?) but will drive others away because it is just more federal regulation in conservative garb. If you endorse Santorum’s view that morality should be regulated by Washington, how do you argue against Democrats who claim that the health care law is based on a moral precept? If you advocate Newt Gingrich’s “red card” immigration plan, how do you argue against the Obama administration’s interventions against states that disagree with White House immigration policy? Whether the issue is what you can do with your computer, how you purchase your health insurance, or how states deal with their illegal residents, big government is exactly what it sounds like, and is something we expect Republicans to give us less of.
5. Proving That Ambitions for Office Are More Important than America’s Fate
The Illinois primary is Tuesday. Our most recent convicted governor followed in his predecessor’s footsteps and headed to prison last week, still doing photo ops in a fast food joint close to where he will be spending the next 14 years. Telephones in Illinois are being spammed nonstop by campaign ads making unsupported claims in a state where residents have no reason to trust a single word uttered by any politician.
Why are Republican voters being forced to sort out the truth of statements, accusations, and innuendo being hurled back and forth between candidates who are members of the party they support? How can we believe in the integrity of contenders who accuse each other of every type of deceit and falsehood imaginable while their PACs go overboard proving the truth of Democratic warnings about Citizens United by jamming our phone lines with loud, accusatory campaign messages?
2016 is a long time to wait for another try for the White House. Given what we have gone through for the past three years, it is time for Republican candidates to knock off the self-interested, divisive behavior and remember what the November election is all about. The president has been in full reelection mode for many months. Say what you want, Mr. Obama will never make the mistake of taking his eyes off of the prize.