A strategy of disengagement from Obama won’t yield great policy breakthroughs for conservatives. Yet neither will a strategy of confrontation. Republicans hold a minority share of power in Washington. They shouldn’t conduct themselves in a way that gives their supporters excessive hope. And they shouldn’t give themselves a disproportionate share of ownership in the mostly dismal results of national politics.
The less they define themselves as an anti-Obama party, the more Republicans will avoid a pitfall that conservative pollster David Winston has identified: The public sees hostility as playing a more important role than principle in Republicans’ opposition to Obama. A party that aspires to governing the country should avoid looking petty.
There are limits to how far this strategy can be pursued. Obama is going to be president for four more years, after all, and Republicans will sometimes be duty-bound to work with him and more often to criticize his actions.
At the same time, they should keep in mind that it’s more important to build a post-Obama future for conservatism. That future will probably be led by a governor who has played little part in any of Washington’s battles between Republicans and Obama.