THE GOP AGENDA: SAND IN THE GEARS
Zandar and Balloon Juice's Doug J disagree somewhat about what's likely to happen if Republicans take the House in November. Doug thinks there won't be a government shutdown:
The government shutdown was a political failure for Republicans -- it did no damage to Clinton, who sailed to victory in 1996. The trouble with a government shutdown, from the Republican perspective, is that it generates too many stories about people who couldn't visit public parks that week and that it focuses attention on actual budgetary details; it's a battle fought on reality-based turf, and that terrain is not favorable to Republicans.
Endless investigations are another story. While Republicans did suffer losses in 1998, the fact that they won the White House in 2000 means that impeachment must be viewed as something of a political success. Moreover, modern Republicans excel at destroying their opponents personally, and personal destruction was the end goal of the various investigations of Clinton.
Zandar thinks that impeachment hurt the GOP, but that Americans these days care so little about having a functioning government that Republicans will have no reason not to go for impeachment and a shutdown.
I absolutely agree that there'll be endless investigations, with impeachment as a distinct possibility. But I think Republicans do feel stung by the negative public response to the Gingrich government shutdown, so there won't be another one ... or at least not a literal shutdown, and if there is one, they're going to make sure it's not blamed on them.
I think we got a hint of what they're going to try to do from John Boehner last week:
"I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea it sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room."
"I think there's probably a way to do this with an exemption for emergency regulations that may be needed for some particular agency or another. But if the American people knew there was going to be a moratorium in effect for a year that the federal government wasn't going to issue thousands more regulations, it would give them some breathing room."
I think they won't try to shut down the government -- I think they'll just try to stop the ongoing process of governing, or at least slow it down to the absolute minimum. This, of course, is when they're not trying to reverse what's been done since January 20, 2009 -- and I mean just about everything that's been done since January 20, 2009. That's what the GOP agenda will be -- reversal, negation, and stalemate.
And if Democrats get up on their hind legs and fight back, Republicans will make sure they're blamed if national parks get shut down. But I think their preferred approach will be sand in the gears. A rulebook slowdown, if you will.
And I'll add this about Doug's predictions on the subject of investigations:
Here’s how it plays out, I think...if Republicans take the House, they'll launch endless, pointless investigations of Obama. At least some of these will have a nasty, racial tinge, a la the New Black Panther Party stuff. Establishment media will take all of these investigations very seriously and start hankering for a president who "can bring the country together". This sets the stage for a Republican nominee who is a uniter, not a divider (who knows if the GOP will succeed in nominating a candidate who can dupe Villagers into buying this line -- EDIT: I think Villagers will buy it from John Thune or Mitch Daniels, they won’t but it from Sarah Palin, with the other possible nominees, I'm not sure one way or the other).
That seems half-right to me. I absolutely agree that the Establishment media will take the investigations seriously, while simultaneously wishing for a great healing force that can make the divisiveness go away. However, I think the call will go out, yet again, for a "unity" ticket to do the healing -- quite possibly Evan Bayh/Mike Bloomberg. And Bayh and Bloomberg really might answer the call.
And here's the thing: a "unity" ticket bankrolled by a gazillionaire might be the best thing that could possibly happen to the Republicans in 2012, assuming they nominate Palin/Bachmann or some other all-wingnut ticket, and have the shockingly wingnutty primary season and convention and campaign they're almost certain to have. (They're bloody well not going to pick anyone who eschews pitchfork-compatible rhetoric.)
Think about it. The Villagers will agree with the GOP that Obama is governing from the far, far left. The public will swallow that. In a two-party race, that wouldn't necessarily hurt Obama: if his opponents were too extreme, by November he could win back a lot of swing voters. But if he loses them to the "unity" ticket, that means all our talk about how, say, Sarah Palin can't seem to expand her fan base beyond teabaggers and God-botherers might not matter -- because the GOP can win with far less than a majority vote.
So that's my nightmare scenario. We'll see what happens.