So, we have a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic congress and senate, and a Republican party in eclipse. Time to celebrate? Well, not just yet. See, I've been here before. Twice before, as a matter of fact- once when Nixon resigned and Ford lost, and once when Bush I lost to Clinton. Both times the Republican party has managed to slither it's way back into power, both times in an astonishingly short period of time. Having the Republican President resign in utter disgrace meant it took six years for the Republicans to slither back into power, losing an election is even easier to overcome.
I thought I'd share my observations with the dKos community on how the Republicans managed their inevitable comeback, so we can prepare ourselves for what is to come. The Republican game plan is simple, and can be summed up in three words: Obstruct, Attack, and Rebrand.
Obstruct. The Democrats must not be allowed to suceed in doing anything, especially any thing major. This especially includes health care reform, but it also includes any major foreign policy shift (like withdrawing from Iraq). The only
exception to this is if the policy is, in essence, a Republican one (see Clinton's welfare reform, deregulation policies), which allows the Republicans to claim credit (see, the Democrats adopted our ideas!) if the legislation works, and blame the Democrats (see what pile of manure the Democrats passed!) if it doesn't.
This is a non-negotiable point. The Republicans know that many of the Democrats proposals are ridiculously popular, and likely to become more popular if passed (a lot of opposition to universal health care, for example, is due to disbelief that it'd work- if it's proven to work, that opposition will evaporate).
This means the harder it is for Republicans to obstruct legislation like this, the more important absolute loyalty among the Republicans is. We're probably looking at the Democrats having 58-59 votes in the Senate (where obstruction is easiest)- this means that the pressure is going to be obscenely high on Republicans to toe the party line. Remember that the worst thing that happens if a Republican Senator is defeated is that they go on Wingnut Welfare- write a book or two (or have a ghost writer write them for you), get a cushy job at a lobbyist firm where you only have to show up two days a week, and basically retire. There are worse things for a Republican than losing their seats- and one of them is causing the Republicans to not be able to regain power- that sort of behavior earns you an extremely well-funded primary challenger and no Wingnut Welfare when you lose your primary.
So expect the Republican caucus to display Borg-like unity on the issue of obstructing the Democrats. If you find yourself saying "So-and-so would dare oppose a bill as popular as this one, why, it'd cost him the election!" you are wrong. They will dare. They dare not to.
Attack. Simply preventing the Democrats from getting anything done isn't enough- the Republicans also need to attack the Democrats. And as constantly, and in as bitter and partisian way, as possible. It's important for the Democrats to not only viewed as failures, but corrupt, immoral failures as well. No attack is too slimy, no attack is too obviously bogus, to not be tried. I note that there were websites calling for Obama's impeachment went up before Nov. 3rd- i.e. the Republicans were calling for Obama's impeachment not only before he took office, but before he even won the election. This has nothing to do with Obama himself, and any actions he may or may not take- this is just yet another way for Republicans to attack the Democrats.
It's not enough to insinuate crimes on talk radio, but for the attacks to have real effects, they need to become official investigations. This is where picking Lieberman to head the Homeland Security committee was an egregious mistake- whomever got to chair that committee would be experiencing enormous public pressure to "legimitize" the constant string of pseudo-scandals the Republicans will be parading by actually investigating them. We have placed in that chair the person least able and least inclined to resist that pressure when the pseudo-scandal parade begins on the 21st of January.
Obstructing and attack just set the stage for the third, and most important, point: Rebranding. Having carefully constructed an environment of bitter partisianship, apparent corruption, and ineffectual government, the Republicans can then present themselves as the solution to the problem they, themselves, have created. They then pick some up and comming governor, who has impeccable conservative credentials and speaking ability, and present him as a New Model Republican. Those old Republicans no one likes, with names like Bush and Nixon? They weren't real Republicans. But <Governor to be named later> is an entirely new type of Republican- someone, the only someone, who can ride into town and clean up this mess we call government- he can end the constant bickering and grid lock, clean up the corruption, end the litany of (phony) scandals, and get government working again!
Of course it'll be a lie- the New Model Republican will be just like the old Republican, only more so. And the New Model Republican will simply pick up where Bush left off- just like Bush picked up where Bush I/Reagan left off, and Reagan picked up where Nixon left off.
Will it work? I have to give it a depressingly high probability of working. It worked the last two times. The only thing different now is us- the progressive blogsphere and the internet. If the pattern is going to change, we need to change it. Rather than the battle being over, it has only just begun.