Monday, March 20, 2006

Leave a Message

The Republican mantra against the Democrats is that they have no message and nothing to offer the voters except accusations of incompetence against the Bush administration and Congress. Well, according to this piece in the Washington Post, the Republicans seem to be having a little message trouble of their own.

Anxiety over President Bush’s Iraq policy, internal clashes over such divisive issues as immigration, and rising complaints that the party has abandoned conservative principles on spending restraint have all hobbled the effort to devise an election-year message, said several lawmakers involved in the effort.


In January, Bush laid out a modest menu of ideas on health care and energy independence, but Congress has made little movement on them. Senior White House officials consulted with lawmakers earlier this year about jointly crafting an agenda that would allow Bush and Republicans in Congress — both suffering from depressed public approval ratings — to get off the defensive. A Republican familiar with the process said these discussions did not result in a consensus.

New House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has been wrestling with the same problem, so far without success.

The struggles reflect philosophical differences among competing factions within the party, but they also underscore the political consequences of holding power. Republicans insist they remain united around core principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but can no longer agree on how to implement that philosophy and are squabbling over their delivery on those commitments.


When asked last week whether Republicans had any broad visions to pursue this year, Boehner said, “Before the week is out, you will have a pretty good idea of what they are.” But on Thursday night, after House members approved a $92 billion measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing hurricane relief, lawmakers left town for a week-long break with no agenda ready.


One Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified so he could speak openly about the party’s problems, said divisions between moderates and conservatives have left the House and Senate Republican conferences in disarray. “Getting consensus on policy matters . . . is very difficult,” he said. “That has caused stagnation and led to perceptions that Republican governance is going nowhere.”

This is what happens when you let the party get taken over by one faction — in this case the tightie righties — whose idea of compromise is telling you in advance that they’re going to do it their way and rely on the bumpersticker mentality — “It’s A Child Not A Choice,” “My President is Charlton Heston,” “Kill the Queers” — to get their base, all 33% of it, to stick with them.

What goes around…