Rolling the dice

ROLLING THE DICE…. A charismatic Democratic president gets elected, fairly easily, in the midst of a global economic crisis. The congressional Republican minority decides to base its future on standing up to the White House’s agenda. One House Republican compares the president to Hitler. Another insists the president is threatening “state sovereignty.” Several issue warnings about socialism, and vow to resist the new administration’s efforts to rescue the economy.

This was, of course, the Republican strategy of 1933, soon after Franklin Roosevelt took office. With this background in mind, McClatchy’s David Lightman described the Republican strategy of 2009 yesterday, and it seems pretty similar.

Has the Republican Party, whose presidential candidate and dozens of congressional hopefuls were rejected by voters in November, already been reinvigorated by its opposition to President Barack Obama?

Party officials think so. They proudly point to the fact that all the GOP members of the House of Representatives stuck together last week and voted against the Democrats’ $819 billion economic stimulus plan, and to how the Senate, which is due to begin debate on the plan Monday, is full of similarly skeptical Republicans.

“We’ll look back to that (House) vote as one of the most significant votes Republicans cast. It gave them a very coherent voice,” said Michael Franc, a political analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The vote was a public demonstration of independence from Obama, who took the unusual step of meeting privately with congressional Republicans the day before the House vote. It also demonstrated what Republicans stand for, notably bigger tax cuts and less government spending.

I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around this. Republicans got their mojo back by agreeing to reject the popular agenda of a popular president in a time of international crisis. This, oddly enough, fills them with “pride.” Got it.

But what seems bizarre is the notion that this gives the GOP a “coherent voice,” and makes clear that the party stands for “bigger tax cuts and less government spending.” First, we’ve known the Republican agenda on taxes and spending for several generations now. Was there ever any doubt that the Republican Party wants to cut more taxes and spend less money?

As for the “coherent” voice, I think that’s the wrong adjective. Republicans have a consistent voice — the party supports failed economic policies, unanimously, regardless of circumstances or evidence — but that doesn’t make their agenda “coherent.” We’ve heard the Republican voice on economic policy for quite a while now, and it’s anything but coherent.

Ultimately, congressional Republican leaders seem to believe their only shot at a comeback is opposing Obama at every turn, no matter the costs, or the risks, or the merit. We’ll see how that works out for them, but given his public support and theirs, it’s quite a gamble.

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