What Are Republicans For?

Landgren cartoon: GOP platformPresident Joe Biden receives virtually no praise in the media for his prosaic speeches and comments. His narratives are not at all poetic or comparable to alliterative snippets such as “nattering nabobs of negativism” uttered by (but not written by) the disgraced VP Spiro Agnew in 1970. Joe is just plain spoken Joe.

At his marathon presser in January, he looked directly at the press crowd to pose what may be the most insightful political barb of recent memory: What are Republicans for? Those four words carry an enormous and possibly deadly political message.

For example, in Virginia, Republicans captured the three statewide offices and a slim majority in its House legislative chamber. Two prominent platform promises included banning critical race theory curricula in education and a commitment to election integrity. These widely promoted policies were exalted to be implemented on “day one” of the new administration. Both items also resonate among Republicans nationally.

Consequently, on or about his first day, Governor Youngkin promptly issued an executive order seeking to ban, not CRT, but something more nefarious, characterized as “divisiveness.” Not long after promulgating the almost-CRT ban, the governor created an email hotline for the public to report such perceived divisiveness. All that was lacking were Texas-like bounties to compensate the snitchers.

Also on day one, Youngkin issued an executive order providing an end to mask mandates in favor of parental choice. Some policy adviser must have overlooked the fact that, since many school boards had adopted mask mandate policies, the personal option to wear masks would result in mask chaos. As it turns out, a number of school boards have reiterated their mandates–and sued the governor–resulting in much confusion among parents, teachers, school board administrations, and, naturally, students.

During the gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Youngkin was adept at deflecting any dots connecting his candidacy with that of the former president. But all understood the “wink and nod” reference to promising election integrity in the Commonwealth. The Republican National Committee’s top leadership (Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and chair of the Senate Campaign Committee) countered President Biden’s remarks in an Atlanta speech with, “Our goal is maximum participation and zero fraud. Not some fraud, we want zero fraud.”

A recent audit by the Virginia election agency reported record turnout in the competition that vaulted Republicans to their November 2021 victory. No trace of claims could be detected in publicly available reports concerning election fraud, individually or organized. Nonetheless, in a radio interview, Youngkin announced he would be replacing the agency’s head in a few months to ensure it is “nonpolitical and independent.” As a son of the former president might quip, it’s a “nothingburger.”   

Far too many Republican criticisms of recent vintage are not original but mere reflections of hollow attempts to oppose Democratic policies. Turn those criticisms inside out and behold a plank to campaign upon.

The reality may be that politics itself is constantly and consistently a process of reinvention and opportunity. Consequently, constituents and observers ought not be surprised at any time by declarations and statements that spring from unfounded notions unattached to evidence. Perhaps more seditious is the idea that far too many Republican criticisms of recent vintage are not original but mere reflections of hollow attempts to oppose Democratic policies. Turn those criticisms inside out and behold a plank to campaign upon.

The new Republican attorney general of Virginia issued a notice of withdrawal to SCOTUS that the Commonwealth was “no longer of the view” that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided along with the 49 years of jurisprudence upholding the principle. The letter of notice cited that the Court had “constitutionalized” the law in the face of the silence of the Constitution on any right to abortion. Such analysis parallels GOP attacks on congressional proposals to enhance and protect voting rights as “federalization.” Naturally, all citizens of the nation fear the “izims” that are spawned by Democrats, such as socialized medicine under the Affordable Care Act.

Over a far longer period of campaign time, however, the GOP has been masterful in converting its opposition’s platform planks into fodder and red meat for its constituent base. In 1972 and 1976, the national GOP platform supported passage of the Equal Rights Amendment until 1980, when Ronald Reagan quietly converted the plank into sawdust. Of course, subsequently, without a mention of the ERA, Reagan recovered by appointing Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court. Democrats hardly ever demonstrate such political nimbleness.

This time-tested tactic may offers another opportunity for Virginia’s attorney general to use as a theory to withdraw from the state’s support of its legislature’s affirmative vote for the Equal Rights Amendment, currently in litigation. Withdrawal may not be a bridge too far for a political party enjoying success opposing Democratic initiatives that are popular or, in fact, law.

Some may recall that the GOP did not adopt  a national campaign platform in 2020, instead relying upon the perceived popularity of Donald Trump who virtually ignored policy issues in debates in 2016. Instead, the public was treated to a host of personal insults to Republican competitors and, later, his Democratic opponent.

In contrast, and to some voter effect, Democrats campaigned on infrastructure in 2020, which Republicans had fumbled during four years of Trump. A decade earlier, in 2010, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), smirking, promised to make President Obama a “one-term president.” How did that work out? And, over the following six years, Republicans campaigned on “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act, with fruitless votes on 70 occasions–and nothing offered as replacement.

Perhaps even more brazen were McConnell’s “rules” for SCOTUS appointments that nullified the Merrick Garland nomination while greasing the paths of Kavanaugh and Barrett. That’s nimbleness! At the same time that Dems may be too prosaic, the media displays a timidness and incapacity in reporting and analyzing such insidious tactics in a fuller context.

The Republican political strategy resembles the behavior of the remora, or suckerfish, which attaches itself to sharks for ease of travel. Throughout the term of the former president there were periodic weeks declared as infrastructure celebrations – all of which failed to produce legislation. Following the Dem success in passing Biden’s $1.5 trillion measure, GOP Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, who voted against the bill, tweeted proudly about its provision of $70 million for the Port of Virginia in his home district.  

The Republican political strategy resembles the behavior of the remora, or suckerfish, which attaches itself to sharks for ease of travel. Throughout the term of the former president there were periodic weeks declared as infrastructure celebrations – all of which failed to produce legislation. Following the Dem success in passing Biden’s $1.5 trillion measure, GOP Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, who voted against the bill, tweeted proudly about its provision of $70 million for the Port of Virginia in his home district.  

Biden’s determination to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court is being met with right wing protests that the nomination is unconstitutional because precedent jurisprudence prohibits selections based upon gender and race. Obviously, Biden’s criteria are neither federalized nor constitutionalized as the GOP carps.

Early reporting in the media indicates that the GOP may simply restate its 2016 platform for 2024. If the former president is the chosen candidate, it will be quite natural to ignore any planks in the platform as was the mode in the first go-around. Strategically, Democrats should include as many Republican-offensive planks as possible to encourage its opposition to reference them.

It took McConnell two years after the 2008 election before he declared only one term for Barack Obama. Biden is still in his first year. The media and some pundits are predicting a GOP takeover of Congress in this year’s midterms. All things being equal, Plain Vanilla Joe’s low-key narratives might become powerful weapons to encourage voters and the media to pose the question: what, indeed, are Republicans for?

Biden repeatedly states his confidence in the instincts of the American people to make the correct choices. The opposition has chosen to reject that outlook in favor of opportunism. The piper awaits payment.



Categories: congress, democrats, elections, Issues, legislature, National, political discourse, political parties, politics, press, republicans, State, VOTING RIGHTS

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1 reply

  1. Excellent.

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