A risky strategy

A RISKY STRATEGY…. It certainly seems counterintuitive. After Republican economic policies produced widespread, shall we say, difficulties, voters threw their support to the Democrats. In response, a shrunken GOP minority, well aware of the popularity of the Democratic president and his economic agenda, continues to push an even more conservative version of the agenda that led to ruin.

A GOP strategist told MSNBC that the minority party has a strategy, appearances notwithstanding.

“My sense is we are making progress towards reclaiming mantle of fiscal responsibility, which is first step towards rebuilding,” the strategist said. “Obama is hugely popular, which makes for a tough environment. But that will/must fade with time, and we’ll get our second look from public.”

There are two key angles to this, both of which are likely a losing bet for the Republican Party. The first is that the Obama administration’s economic agenda will necessarily fail and the GOP will thrive in the wake of voter backlash. As Greg Sargent noted, “The flip side of this is that if Obama’s policies are seen as even modestly successful in turning the economy around, the GOP will indeed get a ‘second look’ from the public, and could find itself relegated to rump minority status for years, decades, perhaps even a generation or more. Which is to say, it’s hard to overstate the enormity of the stakes of the GOP’s gamble right now.”

Quite right. The other angle, though, is that Republicans wildly overstate the potential popularity of the “mantle of fiscal responsibility.” After all, for the current GOP, what does “fiscal responsibility” mean, exactly? We got a pretty good hint when Republican lawmakers presented budget alternatives last week, highlighting the party’s vision — draconian cuts in domestic spending, privatize Medicare, shred the safety net, and reject investment in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

In other words, Republicans believe that Obama will come up short and Republicans will be in a position to “rebuild” when voters embrace their vision of “fiscal responsibility.” But here’s the thing — that agenda is never going to be popular. If the GOP is waiting for the electorate to think this vision has real value, it’s going to be waiting a very long time.

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