Is the GOP Making a Comeback? (CON)

Although it seemed at first that President Barack Obama’s honeymoon popularity would never end, his halo has finally ceased to exist. Since March, President Obama’s approval rating has dropped to 50 percent — the largest drop of an American President in the history of polling. However, it is not just the President who is suffering in the poll; Congress is suffering, too. According to Quinnipiac University Poll, congressional Democrats have been declining in their approval ratings, dropping more than 13 points since May. Some major Republican leaders, such as Senator Mitchell McConnell, believe that the Democrats’ free fall in ratings means a shimmer of hope for Republicans in 2010. However, that notion is about as crazy as the notion of “death panels.”

Yes, it is true that President Obama is far from the untouchable realm he enjoyed during the election. Yes, Democrats have been less than effective despite a heavy majority in Congress. And yes, Democratic approval ratings as a whole have dropped consistently since May. Despite all of this, the Republicans won’t make a comeback in 2010 due to three simple reasons.

The first is that the health care debate has overshadowed other aspects of the administration, and it has shown in the ratings. However, sooner or later the debate will end and the focus will shift to other important challenges for the Obama Administration (i.e the economy, Iraq, cap and trade). While much of the media’s attention has been focused on the gruesome health care debate, nobody seems to have noticed that the economy is on the road to recovery, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate at which people are losing jobs is declining. Ultimately, a huge factor in whether Democrats get re-elected is the economy, and, from the looks of it, the economy will continue to recover in 2010.

The second reason is that, recently, the Republicans have shown that they are still the Republican Party of the Bush Era. Undeniably, the Bush Administration made some pretty serious mistakes, especially on the issue of national security. The last thing that the Republicans need is to relate their policies, in any degree, to the Bush Administration. While John McCain did an effective job of associating himself with the previous administration during his campaign, the Republicans have taken a step backwards. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a trusted republican voice on homeland security, stated on “The Rachel Maddow Show” that he didn’t regret going to war in Iraq. In fact, he failed to acknowledge any flaws in the policy-makers who drew us into war.

As Maddow correctly noted, Americans need to believe the current administration won’t make the serious mistakes of the Bush/Cheney Administration, and unless the Republicans begin to acknowledge past mistakes and separate themselves from them, they will not regain their credibility. This goes for all issues: national security, the economy and energy.

Finally, the third and most important reason is that Republicans are operating on an unsustainable model of politics…crazy politics. A large contributor to the democratic decline in approval ratings is how difficult the Republicans have made it to get anything done. With stern unity, the Republicans have followed the practice of stopping any bills at all costs, including lying and distortion. While this may have provided a favorable shift in ratings for the time being, Republicans still have not fared well in the polls against Democrats overall. According to a recent poll by CNN, approval ratings for the GOP are at least 10 points below Democrats on almost every major issue, except terrorism.

More importantly the Republican mindset of blocking any Democratic bill at all costs will eventually wear thin on the American public. This new mindset has forced the Republican Party to distance itself from moderate, intellectual conservatism. For the sake of a few numbers in the polls, republicans as a whole have moved towards the extreme right, embracing, encouraging and in some cases, promoting the rhetoric and false claims of extreme conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Betsy McCaughey. Even Republicans who are considered to be moderate, such as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have endorsed radical notions of secession and “death panels.” If a moderate Republican is endorsing secession from the Union because of health reform, what message is being sent to the American public about the Republican Party?

While it is true these extreme notions and views may have caused a hiccup for those on the left, the extreme right still only makes up only a small minority of the American population. The American people can only believe and tolerate a certain amount of far-fetched notions and radical rhetoric — a threshold the Republicans are dangerously close to.

That being said, Democrats have made some mistakes, giving an opportunity for Republicans to make ground in the polls. For that to happen, moderation and rational thought needs to return to the GOP. During the later years of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan, perhaps unintentionally, started a conservative intellectual movement to bring the republican rhetoric to moderation — that same moderation and intelligence needs to return to the Republican Party if they even have a prayer making significant ground in 2010. That means Sarah Palin needs to stop writing on her facebook. That means the Republican Party needs to reprimand Senator Joe Wilson instead of endorsing him. That means the GOP has to know that it’s contradictory to call Obama a Nazi and Socialist at the same time. Plain and simple, the GOP cannot continue to move in the anti-intellectual direction they are headed.

However, if things continue in the same political pattern, the Republican Party will eventually lose its credibility amongst voters. The GOP will forever become the party that cried wolf.

Neil Thakor is a second year political science major. He can be reached at nthakore@uci.edu.