Thursday, November 17, 2011

Has the GOP Overreached Heading Into 2012 Elections?

With reports that Republicans on the so-called Super Committee leaning towards some tax increases as part of the deficit reduction package, some wonder if the sane members of the GOP - admittedly a semi-extinct species - are beginning to realize that the party's ultra-extremism is playing to Barack Obama's advantage. Has the GOP gone too far in aiding the wealthy while leaving the middle class to wither? Has the embrace of the Christianist/Tea Party base begun to repel needed moderate voters? From my perspective as a former Republican from a family of former Republicans, I would argue a definite yes to these questions. Time and time again, the GOP wins a majority and then thinks it has a mandate that in fact doesn't exist. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the issue as well and here are some highlights:

Will 2012 look more like the Republican avalanche of 2010 or the Democratic sweeps of 2006 and 2008? From last week’s elections to Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls, the tea leaves suggest that the Tea Party is not what it used to be and that making big fast changes is risky, especially if you didn’t campaign on them.

Overreach is an overused word, but the messages voters sent last week, particularly in Ohio, were not lost on conservatives and Republicans. “The 2010 elections made it abundantly clear that people are gravely concerned about excessive spending and debt, and want to rein in size and scope of government,” . . .
When people feel like the pendulum has swung too far, they’re going to respond negatively.”

GOP strategist Rich Galen says Ohio Gov. John Kasich “way overreached” with his law gutting collective-bargaining rights for public employees, as did the anti-abortion activists who put a “personhood” amendment on the ballot in Mississippi
. Ohio voters rejected the Kasich law last week, while Mississippi voters rejected the ballot measure to define a fetus as a person.

Looking ahead, three dates that will give us clues to the general election landscape:
NOV. 23. This is the deadline for the congressional “supercommittee” to agree on a debt-reduction plan.

[T]here have been developments that reflect the gravity of the debt problem and the impatience of voters who want to see results. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a supercommittee member who once was president of the vehemently antitax Club for Growth, proposed a plan that included $300 billion in new tax revenues. . . .

Toomey and GOP Sen. Tom Coburn both said over the weekend that getting a debt agreement without compromising on taxes is impossible. “If I were king, this is not the plan I’d put on the table. But if we both went into our respective corners and had no flexibility, then we wouldn’t get anything done,”

Both parties have good reasons to worry about the election. Republicans on the supercommittee in particular are being squeezed by their party’s militant antitax wing and more moderate voters looking for action on jobs and the debt. Several recent polls show most voters think the GOP is trying to hurt President Obama by blocking his attempts to create jobs. Democrats are tied with or ahead of Republicans in several recent polls when voters are asked which party they want to control Congress, and Obama has moved back into a tie with a generic Republican presidential candidate.

JAN. 3. This is the date of the Iowa caucuses, when Republicans will vote for their favorite presidential prospect. The candidate perceived as most moderate and electable, Mitt Romney, is at or near the top of the polls in Iowa. . . . . Anything could happen during the nomination season, of course, but the GOP is seeming less and less like the party of Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell.

JAN. 13. This is the deadline for Wisconsin organizers trying to recall Gov. Scott Walker to gather some 540,200 signatures. . . . Kasich’s defeat in Ohio came over essentially the same collective-bargaining issue that triggered the Madison protests. Both Kasich and Walker pushed through laws that virtually ended collective bargaining, though neither had campaigned on the issue. “They thought they could do anything and no one would care,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said on a recent conference call.

The Ohio victory is a psychological boost for Walker recall organizers and no doubt will become a financial one as well. Galen says labor can now go to its funders and tell them, based on the outcome in Ohio, that “if we have enough money, we can do this.” The Walker recall-petition drive kicked off Nov. 15, and organizers say they are aiming for 750,000 signatures. If they get twice that many and Feingold changes his mind, we’ll have a solid sign that it’s not 2010 anymore.

Personally, I hope the recall effort garners the needed signatures. It would send a huge message. The GOP needs to understand that it cannot do anything it wants to placate extremists - or the Koch brothers.

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