Mothers have an uncanny ability to read the code of their baby’s cry. They can determine from the cry whether their baby is tired, wet or hungry. It is unusual, but sometimes the cry is a mystery. The baby is well rested, dry and fed. Upon further and careful investigation the mother breaks the code of the new cry. The diaper pin (some of you might be a little young to know what those were) has come open and is jabbing her baby. With guilt and remorse the mother closes the diaper pin and watches with relief and joy as her baby stops crying and smiles. The GOP has been crying for almost six years now and neither the Democrats nor the pundits have been able to break the code of their cry. Their behavior seems erratic, irrational and self-destructive. They are ignoring the onslaught of a demographic doomsday, the negative polling numbers for their congressional inaction and the conventional wisdom that continues to portray them as the party of “no”. They have ability to reverse this behavior, but seem unwilling to do so. Is the GOP truly self-destructive and crazy? Yes they are crazy, but crazy like a fox.
As political observers we have been conditioned to believe that the ultimate prize sought by any political party is the White House. We have always believed that if a party seems incapable of achieving this lofty goal it is a failure. This failure then leads to an inevitable purging of party leadership and a new-found direction for the party. In fact, we have seen this occur in both the Democratic and Republican parties in recent decades. We should therefore logically expect this to occur in the Republican Party preceding the next Presidential Election. But it won’t.
These expectations and presumptions are based on a false premise. It is a premise that the Republican-controlled House is standing on its head. The premise that the Presidency is the most powerful position in the government of the United States has been proven false for five and a half years now. It is a fact that the Party that controls the House and even more so if they also control the Senate, controls the government of the United States. If that party also controls a majority of state legislatures and state houses it makes them a very formidable force. All we need do is look back at the past five and half frustrating years to see that this statement is true. The only real legislative victory that Obama can point to is the ACA. While on a national level we can point to success, on a state by state level that is very questionable. Most states have refused to create exchanges and many have refused to participate in any expansion of Medicaid benefits. The number of failed legislative initiatives is astounding. I need not list them here. It is also unnecessary for me to explain why they failed. Who is more powerful in this instance, the President or the Congress? While legislative control is obviously of major consequence, approval of Presidential nominations is critical. I am not only referring to cabinet appointments, but more importantly Supreme Court Justices. The party that controls the Senate impacts greatly on this process and has the power to shape the Court. I need not enumerate the many critical issues at stake here. Who is more powerful in this instance, the Senate or the President? Foreign policy has traditionally been the purview of the President, but in recent years the rule of thumb that “politics ends at the shore” has clearly gone by the wayside. Thus, even in the realm of foreign relations the President’s power has been compromised.
So, what does all of this have to do with breaking the GOP code of behavior? It’s quite simple. They don’t want to win the White House. They want to control the Senate and the House and as many state legislatures and state houses as possible so that they can control the future of this country. To achieve this all they need to do is keep their base happy and get them to the polls. The demographics make it clear that they can never again be a national party. However they don’t need to be. All politics is local, remember?