When Congress finally came clean on insider trading by its members Americans were clued in on a bad habit most of us probably assumed was illegal. Now the House has been outed for another entirely permissible practice, a whopping big survivor’s benefit for a legislator’s spouse tacked onto the same bill that would cut the SNAP program. It doesn’t matter that the late Senator Frank Lautenberg was a Democrat. Who do you think Americans will blame?
Democrats weather this stuff better than Republicans, probably because voters forgive their ethical lapses in return for generosity with our tax dollars. As hopes of ever seeing a conservative in the Oval Office go from dim to dark, we should ask why the learning curve is so impossibly steep for Republicans who commit the same mistakes year after year and election after election, even when it comes to something as simple as keeping your mouth shut about issues any idiot knows will get you into trouble, or not taking positions you know you will have to back down from.
You can’t stop people from saying stupid things, but you can stop doing stupid things. The Republican leadership needs to wake up and start acting like the political machine they oppose, or they might as well give up and join the other side. Here are a few hard truths about how things work in politics that, for whatever reason, still haven’t sunk in.
Truth #1: If you take a controversial stance and change your position, no one will ever forget.
Didn’t John Boehner learn anything from his waffling on payroll tax rates in December 2011 (see: Republicans Salvage A Loss From Certain Win Over Tax Cut)? Democrats were just as responsible as the GOP for sticking it to the middle class by agreeing to hike FICA taxes beginning in January 2013, but who wears the blame for not having enough revenue coming in to spend on Middle America?
When you take an untenable position and back down it looks even worse than sticking to your guns and forging ahead. Now we have the same thing happening with the House and Obamacare defunding as Ted Cruz, Boehner, and Mitch McConnell battle for control of the party’s conservative ideology. Get it together, guys. At least pretend you belong to the same party.
Truth #2: If you only act like a Democrat, voters will know you’re faking.
Why alienate those who you know will support you to try to secure votes from those who never will? Senate Republicans’ involvement in S. 744, Washington’s newest take on amnesty, will make the party look foolish and divided when the House does the right thing and refuses to buy in. When it comes to immigration the party needs to decide who it is less fearful of angering, its conservative base of support or Latinos who are never going to be strong Republican supporters.
Truth #3: If you don’t get your story straight, partisanship will destroy you.
Where are the jobs? was a great slogan, but how do you reconcile high unemployment, a slow recovery, and promises of a better life for the middle class with a threat to slash $40 billion from food stamps, a number that sounds impossibly large to most Americans?
Why isn’t the GOP getting out the word about what the president did to food stamps when he signed Public Law 111-226, the Education Jobs Act, a state bailout to pay teachers and keep unions happy? When that law’s food stamp cuts kick in this November Republicans will take the blame because Democrats have already let everyone know they are in the middle class’s corner and – surprise! – many Americans believe it.
Truth #4: If you ignore what works, you will pay the price.
The Tea Party gave Republicans the House in 2010. The relationship between the GOP and its more conservative elements was uncertain at the time and now the Boehner-McConnell-Cruz split raises the question of whether Republicans have decided to buy into Democratic anti-Tea Party rhetoric. Endorsing the Tea Party worked before. When Obamacare defunding fails it can work again in 2014 because a lot of conservatives are going to be plenty unhappy.
Truth #5: Anything John McCain or Lindsey Graham suggests will be a bad idea.
Trust me on this.