Remember when the media warned the GOP that winning the midterm elections would result in an internecine fight that would spell its doooooom? The Hill even used the headline “Civil war looms for the GOP” in an article less than week before the November 4th polling date. The “pressure to govern” would fracture the Republican coalition, Alexander Bolton suggested, and National Journal’s Norm Ornstein predicted that winning the Senate would create a dramatic war for the GOP’s soul.
At the time, I suggested that the drama would take place on the other side of the aisle:
And yet here the Republicans are, not just holding that [House] majority but threatening to take control of the Senate while Democrats stumble over the ineptitude of Barack Obama and his White House team. The GOP will have some tough choices to make, certainly, if they gain control of the Senate, in some of the areas that Ornstein notes. But they will also have pushed Democrats out of control of the entire legislative agenda and stripped Obama of his shield against GOP initiatives reaching his desk. His agenda and those of his party, which Obama explicitly declared were on the ballot, would have been repudiated, and with it any pretense of having a mandate.
Certainly the GOP would rather be in that position than losing another cycle, which would be much more likely to create a schism/civil war between the coalitions on the Right. The better question will be whether that happens to Democrats, who are now experiencing similar tensions between progressive activists and more practical “establishment” figures of their own, along with the added baggage of an increasingly unpopular President.
Instead, the media seems to be focused on trying to sell a Republican win as a Republican loss. The more we see the increase in the Sour Grapes index, the more likely a wave election appears.
It didn’t take long for events to unfold accordingly. Chuck Schumer got the ball rolling by blaming ObamaCare for creating a disconnect between the Democratic Party and the middle class, which prompted an attack from Barack Obama’s former aides. Reuters reports that the civil war that the media predicted for the GOP has arrived, but only after taking a left turn:
Criticism of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law by a top Senate Democrat this week laid bare post-election tensions that could pose challenges for the party in upcoming fights with Republicans over taxes, energy and immigration.
In a high-profile speech on Tuesday dissecting Democrats’ losses in this month’s midterm elections, Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, listed “a cascade of issues” botched by the White House, starting with Obama’s push for healthcare reforms soon after he took office in 2009.
Later on Tuesday, the White House took the unusual step of publicly pledging to veto a deal on tax breaks that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was trying to hammer out with Republicans in the House of Representatives. …
In some ways, Schumer’s remarks were typical of the kind of “post-disaster syndrome” of finger-pointing common after election losses, Baker said.
“Typically, when a political party has suffered an electoral debacle, one of the first things they do is shoot the survivors,” he said.
It’s not just typical, it’s utterly predictable. That’s why all of the concern-trolling over a Republican civil war was so amusing. The seeds of the actual internecine split had been planted months ago, as Democrats across the country ran away from the White House rather than cleave to it. That started producing finger-pointing by the time the media was cautioning Republicans that winning was really losing.
Besides, Schumer’s only partly right about what the problem turned out to be. Instead of having an agenda that addressed the middle class, or even a broad section of the electorate, Democrats instead spent the last few years trying to microtarget narrow constituencies with demagoguery and divisive policies. ObamaCare belongs in that category, as Schumer admitted in his remarks, but it’s hardly alone, as I write in my column today for The Fiscal Times:
This, however, has been typical of the Obama administration and Democratic majority, especially in the Senate. Their agenda has focused on wedge issues that have little to do with the middle class, but everything to do with demagoguing for narrow activist interests.
While holding the majority in both chambers of Congress, Democrats pushed through a stimulus bill without any Republican input that supposedly would direct $800 billion of borrowed money into “shovel-ready jobs” that would boost infrastructure projects. Instead, it acted as a cash transfer to state governments, while Obama admitted years later that there are no such things as “shovel-ready jobs” in government. The bill, which Obama promised would hold joblessness below 8 percent, saw the rate soar above 10 percent and had no appreciable impact on the chronic unemployment and wage stagnation that has hammered the middle class since.
Even after getting “shellacked” in 2010 and losing the House majority, Obama and his colleagues continued their divisive strategies. They spent the better part of the last three years declaring that Republicans wanted to ban birth control as a way to provoke single women to vote Democratic. At the same time, Obama’s economic message of “income inequality” has been pitched at college students and far-left progressive activists, sparking the Occupy movement that trashed urban areas for several months.
And the White House is still doing that with its “executive action” on immigration now:
Obama now plans not just to ignore undocumented workers when it comes to deportations, but to issue them work permits without any statutory authority from Congress to ignore their status. That means they will be competing for jobs with current legal working- and middle-class residents. And they’ll be eligible for both Social Security and Medicare. …
Obama prioritized that provocation for his own political purposes over working with the incoming majority on issues like tax reform, which would provide businesses with a more competitive position globally and unlock American innovation and expansion at home.
If the Democrats are starting their own “civil war,” it’s just the chickens coming home to roost from their politics of division over the last several years. They left a political opening the size of a Mack truck for the GOP to address middle- and working-class concerns in terms of tax reform, economics, and government dysfunction. Republicans don’t have to do much to prove they can govern, thanks to the low bar that Democrats have set — and their efforts to keep pushing the bar lower and lower.