In 2010, Republicans swept into the majority of the House of Representatives on a bold platform that included repealing the unpopular Obamacare legislation, cutting $100 billion from the budget in the first year in power, rolling back the Dodd-Frank financial takeover, and reining in regulatory excesses at agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Their daring won the hearts of voters two years ago, in large part based on what they did while they were in the minority — to oppose the $800 billion “stimulus”, to stop the “cap-and-trade” restrictions on carbon energy emissions, and to slow down the health care and financial regulation laws.
After the election, Republicans gained momentum with pledges by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner to use the debt ceiling and continuing resolutions as leverage to extract real, offsetting spending cuts. They made it their Maginot Line, and a showdown was assured.
Everyone knows what happened after that. One short year later, congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates, are on their heels. One by one, they have ceded issue after issue to the Obama Administration — and it will likely have big implications on the outcome of the 2012 election.
Case in point is the Obama Administration’s most recent request to increase the national debt ceiling by another $1.2 trillion from its current $15.194 trillion level.
So bad was the debt deal reached over the summer that even if the House votes against this new increase, it will become law. And the supposed sequester “cuts” set to take effect will only slightly reduce the growth rate of spending — that is, if Congress even ratifies them.
That, coupled with the failure to obtain real spending cuts in the continuing resolutions — spending actually increased in 2011 — has all but taken the spending and debt issues off the table, robbing Republicans of their narrative.
Adding insult to injury, recently Barack Obama requested permission to consolidate six agencies: rolling the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Trade and Development Agency into the Commerce Department.
Much of this is for show, to help Obama portray himself as some sort of stalwart in favor of limited government — and it backs Republicans into a corner. If the House votes for the proposal, it helps to bolster Obama’s narrative. If it votes no, then House Republicans make Obama look even better and themselves petty.
Obama successfully did the same thing on taxes when it came to the payroll tax holiday. Because Republicans did not stand on any principle — for example that they did not wish to defund Social Security without there being offsetting budget cuts — they missed an opportunity to galvanize seniors against Obama like they did in 2009 and 2010 over cuts to Medicare to help pay for Obamacare.
Worse, even when Republicans voted to extend the payroll tax holiday for another year, they managed to lose any credit for it and achieved the remarkable feat of helping to portray Obama as a tax-cutter.
On Obamacare, Republicans are now risking taking that issue off the table, too — including the much-hated individual mandate — as Mitt Romney, their presumptive standard bearer as Governor signed into law practically the same plan in Massachusetts in 2006.
With so many issues seemingly neutralized, it leaves voters to wonder what, if anything, Republicans will be running on in 2012. They must reclaim their narrative if they are to have any shot of reclaiming the White House.
For losing so much ground, the fault lies singularly with the Republican establishment, who appears almost to want to lose every battle. Their weak mantra of “not upsetting the Independents” is a false excuse; a dodge to cover their cowardice or complicity — or both. It is the GOP establishment, the old bulls and their army of “professionals” that have stolen the genuine demands of the American people for meaningful reform. And it is they who are setting up a certain defeat.
Defeat will come in one of two ways. Either the GOP will fail to capture the White House and make gains in Congress. That would be the conventional definition of “defeat.” Or, they will fail — even with the White House and Congressional majorities — to turn back the assaults on liberty that have become the hallmark of the Obama regime. Either way, America loses.
Time is running out. Conservatives in Congress need to reassert control over the narrative. If the leadership and establishment bulls won’t do it, then hopefully the freshmen will.
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