View Full Version : The Serious Opposition - The GOP has to do More than Just Say No

Badger Paul
02-02-2009, 06:00 PM
The Serious Opposition - The GOP has to do More than Just Say No


By Sean Scallon

It's tough being in the opposition party when a new president is inaugurated. Now imagine being the opposition party and a minority one in Congress to boot and you've got the proverbial SOL situation for the Republicans in 2009. They're lucky President Obama even gives them the time of day.

The dilemma any opposition party faces to the executive branch in U.S. politics is this: Do you offer undying opposition to everything the new president is proposing, even if that opposition looks shrill and winds up irrelevant? Or do you generally acquiesce with everything the new president wants, getting very little credit for it and, frankly, looking just as irrelevant and alienating what little base of support you have left?

It's a brutal dilemma, compounded by the fact the new president will more than likely have high initial approval ratings and is coming into power off a pretty decisive victory. It makes the opposition even more awkward. Rarely does a new President squander the usual honeymoon period with the public and press which would relieve the dilemma, but then again Bill Clinton is truly a sui generis.

Not a single Republican in the House voted for President Obama's economic stimulus package and that's not altogether a bad thing. An opposition party, even a supposedly loyal one, does have to oppose. That is part of the word "opposition." If most House Republicans had voted for it, they might as well close up shop and produce a video of themselves singing Obama's praises.

The problem for the GOP is not its opposition; its how they choose to oppose that is troubling. It shows once again a lack of imagination on their part and it also displays a clinging to the past that shows the party hasn't put a lot of thought into why they've suffered so many electoral defeats recently and what their future should be.

For example, the House Republican alternative to Obama's plan was nothing more than a jumble of tax cuts. How many times over the past 30 years have we heard this? Selling tax cuts when the top rate is 70 percent and 18 percent inflation has pushed so many middle class families into higher tax brackets is easy to do and good public policy. Asking for more tax cuts when the highest rates are in the 30s, deficits are exploding even before TARP and when the number of income tax payers is shrinking, is just so much stale dogma. The way Republicans repeat the phrase "tax cuts" on television you would have thought you had walked into a Catholic church before mass and heard all the Hail Mary's as they recite the Rosary. Not only that, but the party has bogged itself down in an insane argument about whether low income workers who pay taxes right from their paychecks deserve any kind of tax breaks compared to those who do pay income taxes. This from the party that gave us the Earned Income Tax Credit. Ronald Reagan isn't just rolling in his grave at such idiocy; he's digging a hole to China.

Not only that, but in listening to House Republicans debating the stimulus bill you get the sense that they have the memories of flies or at least believe the public does. They may very well be returning back to their anti-spending, anti-government roots, but one gets the impression it's due largely because an evil spell cast on them by Bush II has been broken after his departure from Washington D.C. They talk about excessive spending and big government as if though the last eight years did not exist, as though it had been skipped over in time. One would like to ask Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) if all the tax cuts the House GOP is proposing, was put into the bill, how is the country going to pay for the prescription drug benefit his party's leadership in the House saddled it with by holding open a vote on the measure for a full three hours!

You can only make Pickett's Charge so many times before you run out of troops. So before the Republicans make another suicide run up the hill, perhaps they should understand how an opposition party can be affective even as small minority. And there's really only one thing you need to do.

Change the subject.

Get a new agenda. Make it the topic of conversation amongst the press and the political class. Force the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress to respond to it rather than brushing you aside. Instead of saying no all the time, have something your members can say yes to. Have proposals that the demoralized rank n'file out in the country can get excited about and would be willing to support instead of wallowing in self-pity. Have a platform all Republican candidates can run on. Have proposals that are bold breaks with the past so the sins of the Bush II don't weight the party down anymore.

In fact repudiating Bush II would be a nice start, but since that's a longshot from happening, may I be so kind as to propose a small agenda that will at least get people to take the GOP seriously as an opposition party:

1). Instead of spending stimulus money on Washington D.C. based social programs, craft a stimulus plan where the money goes directly to states, cities and counties based on need and population and which allows them to use it as they see fit. They will make the GOP the party of local government once again and could actually wind up in some form in the final bill.

2). If we are at war, then lets make it official. Bring to the Congress a formal Declaration of War against Al Qaeda. At least it will remind those watching Double Shot of Love that yes, there is a war going on in case you didn't know (after all, we're supposed to do away with such childish things aren't we?). With an official Declaration of War, Republicans could also encourage Obama to go for a specialized draft based special skills the military needs to fight this kind of war, agree to put the country on a war footing and turn Gitmo into a standard POW camp governed by the Geneva Convention instead of worrying about whether we would have to release some potentially dangerous individuals onto the world at large...

3). And speaking of war policy, Republicans can move to have U.S military garrisons in Europe and Japan, and any other overseas bases where the main enemy is boredom be transferred to Afghanistan to take part in the newly declared war or returned home and added to the depleted reserves.

4). Instead of getting involved in same old tax cut debate, authorize a party study committee to come up with new ways of raising revenues for the federal government to replace the income tax and have a proposals debated before Congress.

5). Vigorously oppose any attempt to nationalize bad banking assets. If Andrew Jackson could build the Democratic Party around opposition to the Bank of the United States (BUS), there's no reason why the Republican cannot do the same with this new BUS which is another attempt to have the taxpayers be put on the hook for the mistakes of the financial community.

I could also propose ending the Federal Reserve System but that would betray me as a Ron Paul supporter. But then again, so what? Paul was the only intellectually serious Republican there was running for president in 2008 and his ideas are the only new ones there are floating in the GOP, conservative and libertarian circles. You quench your thirst where the water is, not where it once was. The wells and streams have run dry when it comes to new conservative and or libertarians ideas.

To be a good opposition party, one must not only oppose but propose as well. If GOP doesn't want to be the loyal opposition they must at least be the serious opposition. Otherwise they'll be the crank opposition, as they were for much of its history in the 20th Century. And that will not serve the U.S. well at all through its time of troubles.

Sean Scallon is a freelance writer and newspaper reporter who lives in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in Chronicles: A magazine of American Culture. His first-ever book: Beating the Powers that Be: Independent Political Movements and Parties of the Upper Midwest and their Relevance in Third-party Politics of Today is now out on sale from Publish America. Go to the their website at www.publishamerica.com to order a copy. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone. Sean Scallon can be reached at: pchsports@rivertowns.net