The GOP’s Recipe for Disaster

Many people have noted that Republican candidates have completely abandoned the recommendation on reaching out to Hispanics about immigration reform in the autopsy they completed following their loss in the 2012 presidential election. But the autopsy also included statements like this:

When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.

If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues…

The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party’s negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.

The prospect of shutting down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood is probably not one of the recommendations they heard from women in those listening sessions. And yet that is becoming a very real possibility.

Stan Collender at Forbes puts the odds of a government shutdown at 60% (up from his previous prediction of 40% ). Here’s his wonderfully descriptive way of saying what happened.

But the biggest change from last week in the odds of a government shutdown is because of the emergence of the one big thing that has been missing so far from the appropriations debate: a highly emotional, politically toxic and take-no-prisoners issue.

There are two ways that this is a political nightmare for Republicans. Previous to the emergence of the push to defund Planned Parenthood, they were making very little progress on putting together a budget to meet the October 1st deadline. Given that, the most likely scenario would have been the passage of a “continuing resolution” – which would have simply extended the current budget. That would have kept all their actual “governing” issues quiet.

But it’s not likely that will happen now. Instead, Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz – joined by the House Freedom Caucus – will do everything they can to cause a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. If they are successful, it will probably end the same way their similar effort did in 2013 over defunding Obamacare. That means that Boehner and McConnell will have to negotiate with Democrats on a budget – likely a continuing resolution. All Republicans will gain in the process is having to shoulder the responsibility for causing another government shutdown and the chaos that ensued. The one difference this time is that they now control both Houses of Congress (in 2013 Democrats controlled the Senate).

But this will also be a nightmare for Republicans when it comes to the presidential election. Simply note that last night the front-runner in that contest right now – Donald Trump – declared his support for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. Any candidate who had doubts about whether or not a government shutdown would be good for their campaign will now have to weigh in with that in mind.

We’ve already seen one example of a candidate making a mess of that when, in commenting about Planned Parenthood funding, Jeb Bush said yesterday that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” His campaign pretty immediately tried to walk that one back. Overall it’s very likely that, in order to win the GOP primary, these candidates will all wind up taking positions that their own autopsy suggested were one of the causes of their defeat in 2012.

The spectacle we’re now witnessing is that a candidate who is leading the field by polling at 20-25% with Republicans has insulted Mexican Americans, called for a government shutdown over funding for women’s health care, and – in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement against police killings – suggested that the police don’t have enough power. And yet he is driving the Republican agenda on the campaign trail. According to their party’s own analysis, that is a recipe for disaster.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.