GOP Victories Come With Responsibilities

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Republicans have had a couple of weeks to digest their sweeping victories from November 4th. They now have under their belt a workable majority in the US Senate with an additional pickup in Louisiana looking more and more likely. They have their largest majority in the US House since the Hoover administration. “Blue” states such as Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts have Republicans measuring drapes in their governor’s mansions. 68 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers reside in Republican hands.

There remains, however, one prize that continues to be elusive for Republicans. The White House remains occupied by a Democrat for at least two more years. Between the executive powers of the President and the Senate’s filibuster rules, the GOP will remain limited in what it can accomplish in Congress for at least the next two years.

Republicans therefore, at the state and local levels, will need to be strategic in what they choose to do with their victories this year if they wish to get the bigger prize two years from now. As the election cycles of 2008, 2010, 2012, and now 2014 have shown, the American voting public is fickle.

It seems we’re quite good at voting against governing majorities in both parties. David Perdue won Georgia largely on the claim that he was neither Harry Reid nor Barack Obama, and would not be voting to implement their agenda. In many ways, Republicans nationally were able to motivate voters to side with them against an unpopular President.

In 2016, the challenge will be to get voters to vote “for” Republicans, and a specific Republican at the top of the ticket. The GOP will again spend much of the next two years attempting to select a standard bearer that can hold the fractured coalition of those who consider themselves conservative while simultaneously hoping to attract enough centrist and independent voters to achieve an electoral majority. This will be no easy feat.

Republicans who seem to have made a sport of dividing themselves in the name of purity were able to overcome their distrust of each other during this past election cycle due to an even greater distrust of the President. Less than a year ago, those who supported Chris Christie or John McCain were not likely to be seen with Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. And yet, during the past several months, each appeared here as a surrogate to help Governor Nathan Deal with re-election or David Perdue hold Georgia’s Senate seat for the GOP.

They will likely be back soon, as will many others looking for a Presidential nomination. The 2016 race is now officially underway.

This morning, Johnny Isakson will officially announce that he will be seeking a third term in the Senate. Courtesy of the new Republican majority, he will do so as the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

With Republican majorities comes the responsibility to govern, which is critical that the GOP remember even as it remains in perpetual campaign mode. Those in Washington and back here in Atlanta will have to demonstrate more in 2016 and 2018 than they did to win this year. President Obama will not be on the ballot again. Instead, it will be Republicans who will have much of the responsibility to demonstrate that the country and the state are on either the right track or wrong track when voters return to the polls.

Republicans would do well to drop nostalgic visions of earlier times and messages about “taking our country back”. These messages do well with the standard GOP core voting block but do little to convince independents and younger voters that Republicans have an interest in governing for tomorrow.

While GOPers can be counted on to interject copious references to Ronald Reagan in the upcoming rhetorical wars, they should also remember that Reagan’s greatest contribution to the conservative movement was his ability to communicate why Republicans offered a better alternative. He did so in a smiling and welcoming way.

Reagan didn’t offer purity tests nor punishment for those who didn’t agree with him 100% of the time or have a lengthy partisan pedigree. He and other partisans were quite happy to have a coalition of “Reagan Democrats” to help elect Republicans and govern as conservatives.

Republicans have set the table with the 2014 election cycle, with many opportunities to demonstrate positive conservative examples as alternatives to the current status quo of malaise. To do so, however, will require Republicans to lead and to govern.

This is neither a time to be timid, nor to grandstand on meaningless gestures. Republicans must pick their battles wisely, and understand what it is they are ultimately trying to win. Stunts designed to appease a partisan base will not win the White House in 2016.

Effective conservative governance that allows the limited government we need to work effectively will be needed to demonstrate competence. Reducing the size and scope of government in our daily lives would demonstrate principle. Doing so with leaders and messengers that smile and are welcoming would demonstrate that once again Republicans are serious about brining new voters into the fold. And new voters are the only way Republicans will gain the victory they covet in 2016.

16 comments

  1. blakeage80 says:

    I may just not have a big vision, but I don’t see a path forward that includes any real results. Even if The Congress passes all the right bills, they’ll be denied because President Obama has not demonstrated any willingness to sign anything that isn’t 100% his way. So, everything turns into some sort of showdown, especially budgets and funding bills. Will turning The President into ‘Mr. No’ be enough to instill confidence in the voters? Will passing good, limited government bills, without any being signed and therefore no real results be enough to get folks voting Republican? I think They need to read a lot of Og Mandino and become the greatest salesmen in Washington because it won’t do to just have a lot of conservative blogs do their talking for them.

        • John Konop says:

          ……..I don’t see a path forward that includes any real results. Even if The Congress passes all the right bills, they’ll be denied because President Obama..

          You said the above? I gave examples of bills that could pass……Do you disagree with the bills or chances of passing?

          • blakeage80 says:

            Oh. I would like to see some limited government measures pass. I don’t think The President has much incentive to pass anything that isn’t exactly to his liking, though. I think he has shown himself too ideologically pure to meet anybody half way.

              • blakeage80 says:

                I don’t know what it matters because as far as I know, I have been nominated for any office.
                However, the keystone pipeline looks good to me. I would like to see our borders secured, illegal aliens that have committed crimes exported and illegal aliens that haven’t committed further crimes worked with, though I don’t know the exact right answer there. Reforming entitlements to encourage people to support themselves as best they can is cool. A balanced budget is a must. I have not looked into the infrastructure bank thing, but it sounds like more layers of government with the ability to mismanage transportation funds. I will study it further, however.

                • John Konop says:

                  In conclusion you support 75% of major bills of what could pass in the next 2 years….both sides are fairly close on them…..and you are not sure about the other 25%…..? BTW you should read up on the infrastructure bank….

                  • Three Jack says:

                    Keystone – the ONLY reason it is being brought up right now, Landrieau v. Cassidy in LA. And even if it passes both houses, it will not be signed.

                    Immigration – the pres is not going to wait for the new congress as he has already stated his intent to EO this issue thus allowing 6-8M illegals some form of legal status.

                    Entitlement reform – You are naive if you think that has any chance of being considered leading up to an open presidential election.

                    Infrastructure – Obama passed this upon taking office, where are the results with all those ‘shovel ready jobs’.

                    I agree with Blake, there is not opening for any major legislation to pass in the current environment. I would guess the GOP will push through a few testers to get Obama’s veto pen inked up, but nothing of substance will get done.

                  • blakeage80 says:

                    After a little reading, it looks like the infrastructure bank idea starts with creating a larger role for the feds in transportation (strike one),borrowed money (strike two), and is really just another form of previous stimulus initiatives where the benefits weren’t outweighed by the debt they caused. (strike three)
                    Why does every federal program have to start with money we don’t have? (I know, it’s because we don’t have any money to begin with.)

                    • John Konop says:

                      Blake,

                      ……..Why does every federal program have to start with money we don’t have? (I know, it’s because we don’t have any money to begin with.)……

                      You get no matter what we do we will borrow money ie bonds….? The ides is can the project service the cost via fees, tools, taxes, economic growth…..If you do not do it you go backwards…..why Georgia is lagging with jobs….We have 7 high tech companies alone ready to leave just North Fulton over traffic. We do not do major projects out of cash funds? Second you understand we have federal projects and state projects? Have you ever driven on 1 75 or I 20? You do understand I 75 and I 20 run outside of Georgia? You understand the electronic grid works all around the country?

  2. Republicans would do well to drop nostalgic visions of earlier times and messages about “taking our country back”. These messages do well with the standard GOP core voting block but do little to convince independents and younger voters that Republicans have an interest in governing for tomorrow.

    Just flip the switch! Easy as that.

    • FranInAtlanta says:

      If I heard him correctly, Joe Biden, speaking for the Democrats during this election, also wants to “take our country back.” Interesting that both sides seem to think the country has been taken away.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Haha, and since when do Dems care about tomorrow? I must have missed their plan to reduce the debt burden, perhaps hidden among all the proposals to spend like there is no tomorrow.

  3. saltycracker says:

    “Take our country back” means just whatever we think it does. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I love my country.

    “Let’s roll” might mean might mean they are going to take positive action. Most of us want to learn from the “back” and move forward with as little constraints as living in a community will permit.

Comments are closed.