Count Republicans among the legions who will help keep Barack Obama in office for another four years. Loudly airing the most divisive conservative issues will drive undecided voters from the GOP and into the waiting arms of Democrats, a timeworn strategy that Republicans appear to have settled on for 2012.
As the economy creeps through its recovery Democrats are covering for their failures by making good on promises of security. After the most recent extension of unemployment benefits Harry Reid announced:
More than four million unemployed Americans will continue receiving checks that help them pay the rent and buy groceries while they look for a job, and millions of seniors on Medicare will continue to have access to their doctors.¹
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich sent voters a different message. Following in Orrin Hatch’s footsteps both have raised the issue of drug testing for those on government assistance, which includes unemployment benefits. This costly idea sidesteps the question of why our government refuses to do what taxpayers pay for. If we can drug test the unemployed and keep track of the results then we can audit their work search records, something the law already covers. We can also recoup the $13.7 billion in improper unemployment benefit payments doled out last year, probably a more expensive problem than unemployed slackers abusing drugs on the public’s dime. These are palatable solutions that force government to do its job, do not extend the reach of big government, and do not place blame on the jobless during a period of historic high unemployment. Instead we hear suggestions that the unemployed might rather use drugs than look for work. Why?
Republican lawmakers have had a good run ever since the 2010 midterms put them back on solid ground. Finding fault with our president is lazy man’s work, and the stalemate in Congress makes it easy to excuse the near absence of progress. The last few years have been heady times for conservative opinion brokers, too. This does not excuse the lack of discretion behind Rush Limbaugh’s ill-conceived remarks over birth control and the health care law. Limbaugh showcased the conservative habit of becoming sidetracked by issues that should be left alone in favor of the big picture, and gave politicians on both sides ammunition for an irrelevant free for all. When it comes to the health care bill, birth control coverage is the least of our worries.
The contraception firestorm has lingered far too long. Republicans need to shift their sights away from this and other damaging hot button issues that will not serve them well no matter what their position. There will always be questions over what big government health care should cover, but the problem has nothing to do with birth control. The issue is getting Washington out of the health care business, something Republicans promised with their seven point repeal plan in the Pledge to America.
Instead of playing with fire and risking alienating women, how about showing some real progress in sawing the legs off of Obamacare? January 2011’s symbolic vote to repeal the bill was exactly that, symbolic. Health care reform is on schedule. Barring an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court later this year, Obamacare will move forward. Arguing over what the law should cover only wastes time and validates its existence, instead of finding ways to get rid of this big government juggernaut once and for all.
At a time when the president looks unbeatable and Republicans need every vote they can get, why are they helping Democrats paint them as the enemy? Last December’s fracas over the payroll tax cut extension was a PR disaster for the GOP (see: Republicans Salvage A Loss From Certain Win Over Tax Cut). Republican politicians and candidates alike seem oblivious to the damage being done by a strategy that will ruin their chances for November long before we get to Tampa. Divisive, attention diverting issues can wait. Democrats already know that the way to get votes is to repeatedly tell Americans what they are doing to make life better. Republicans keep getting sidetracked and need to end the perception once and for all that Democrats give, and Republicans punish and take away.
Did we not suffer enough during the first three years of the Obama administration to learn that we need to focus our ire on a president and Democrats in Congress who will wreck our country? Forget gay marriage. Go after illegal immigration. Forget birth control. Go after the union tax exemption in the health care bill. Stop blaming the jobless. Go after federal waste of benefits and the terrible business climate created by this administration. How can Republicans justify their criticism of our president when their actions often seem headline grabbing and pointless, and their solutions are more big government alternatives? They can’t. That is a problem they need to solve, and time is running out.