Republicans for What?

Robert Borosage

This November’s bi-election has all the makings for a Republican wave. The president’s popularity is down. Most Americans think the country is on the wrong track; nearly half think we are still in a recession. Wages are stagnant; good jobs are scarce. The sixth year election in any presidency tends to favor the opposition party.  The Democratic base is less likely to get out and vote.

But the polls show the key races for the Senate remain virtually neck and neck. Even the cheerleaders at the Wall Street Journal editorial page find little to applaud. The president is unpopular but Republicans in the Congress are setting new disapproval records.

The Journal suggests the problem is that Republicans are known only for their obstruction. Voters know what they are against: almost anything the President proposes. But that’s not enough. The Wall Street Journal argues that Republicans “need to show voters what they are for.”

The Journal editors recommend caution, nothing so bold as the old Gingrich Contract with America. Rather they suggest a handful of “smallish ideas” that might unite their ranks – if that is possible – without completely alienating moderates. The Journal doesn’t claim to know what these should be but offers up a few suggestions.  First, an option to opt out of Obamacare requirements for health care plans, enabling insurance companies to market cheaper plans that don’t offer minimal protections.  That increases “freedom” at the cost of forcing other taxpayers to ante up when someone gets sick and can’t afford needed health care.

Second, the Journal wants a promise to repeal “too big to fail” protections. Essentially, this is a call to weaken financial regulation, and move back towards the deregulated world that brought us the financial collapse.

Third the Journal wants to go beyond the Keystone XL pipeline, and have the GOP commit to a rapid expansion of fossil fuel production and exports. In complete denial of catastrophic climate change, and ignoring how much Obama has already done in this regard, this would be the centerpiece of a GOP jobs agenda. Indeed, it might well produce thousands of jobs as billions are spent repairing the destruction wrought by rising seas and catastrophic climate events.

Five years into the so-called recovery, this economy doesn’t work for working families. Inequality has reached new extremes, as the middle class keeps losing ground. Americans believe something fundamental has changed for the worse in the economy. They are losing faith that their children will fare better than they have. They are looking for fundamental change.

The Journal’s solution: run hard a few small bad ideas that aren’t likely to address this reality. Nor will they cover up what the GOP really represents.

The GOP is against raising the minimum wage, against pay equity for women, against paid family leave and paid sick days for workers. The Republican caucus has voted against every jobs program, even the rebuilding of an increasingly decrepit public infrastructure.

The Republican caucus votes lockstep for lowering taxes on the rich; for protecting offshore corporate tax dodges; and for cutting investment in education, research and development. Its members have voted repeatedly for repealing health care reforms, with nothing to replace them. Its leaders would cut Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program of declining value. Its members stand with big money in our politics and oppose efforts to make voting and registration more accessible to all. Its caucus opposes immigration reform, opposes universal pre-K education, opposes making college more affordable, and opposes allowing those with college debt to refinance at today’s lower interest rates.

The Wall Street Journal’s agenda — three “smallish ideas” that can unify the party – show just how out of step it is. Health care reform that burdens taxpayers; fossil fuel commitment that denies science; financial deregulation that frees up the big banks. That may unify the corrupted GOP caucus, more attuned to the deep pocket lobbies than to their voters, but it surely won’t do much to inspire support for GOP candidates.

No wonder the Republicans run solely on their opposition to all things Obama. Their agenda won’t sell. They are left with obstructing Obama’s agenda, and then railing at him for failing.

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