Republicans smell victory. The question is whether the aroma’s strong enough, constant enough, or far enough away to manifest and serve Republican candidates in November, 2014.
The operatives around the country charged with tracking voter sentiment, which moves before the jet stream of media coverage, have yet to determine whether the recent blip on the Republican’s post-shut down flat line foretells something hopeful or not.
It’s was just a few weeks ago when John Boehner stood before a bank of microphones and danced to the right with the far right caucus in the House. It was a heady time for obdurate, stubborn, no-compromise fanatics who coalesced around Ted Cruz and his compulsive obsession to scuttle the Affordable Health Care Act. It was just a few eeks ago when Boehner led the Government down the rabbit hole and the Repiublican brand delved new depths of disfavor. It appeared to be an end, if not the end of the GOP. Some commentators mourned its imminent passing; others said they had no one to blame but themselves, a punishment the voters would exact in 2014.
The shut down cost the taxpayers another $24 billion dollars on top of an already untenable national debt. It angered voters and humiliated both houses of Congress and one party in particular. It also afforded Sen. Mitch McConnell an opportunity to scoop up some pork for the home folk before signing off on the deal that got things going again.
McConnell, who’s feeling the pressure from the far right in next year’s primary election, treated Senator Ted Cruz, the incorruptible Robespierre of the Right, with the distance and respect one might pay to an explosive device or a fanatic with access to firearms. On the one hand he knew that the mathematics and the nuts and bolts of reality argued against Cruz, but he worried that Cruz and his fanatics might blow up the whole thing before time took its course and quieted them with irrelevance and disinterest.
In the House Boehner’s margins were less forgiving. He had to dance to the Tea Party’s tune or risk losing the Speakership. Make no mistake, self-interest is one of Boehner’s more normal attributes. He loves being Speaker of the House, and he loves the perks and the power and the air time. The only thing he doesn’t like about the job are the demands it makes on his evenings. Boehner’s a slow pace guy, early to bed and early to rise. Perhaps that’s how he keeps that Cincinnati year round tan.
Boehner had to navigate the wandering rocks of a river that ran between Scylla and Charybdis, the whirlpool of noble defeat and the many headed hydra of ambitious opportunists. Eric Cantor couldn’t get close enough to the Speaker when Boehner would address the press (and not because they’re close friends – they’re not), as if to say: “Hey, press-guys, if you ever want to hear somebody who knows what’s really going on around here, I’m your man.”
Boehner could feel Cantor’s ambitious breath on his neck as Cantor bore down on his long shot for the Speakers gavel. Georgetown parties were rife with rumors that Boehner was vulnerable and that whether he’d still be Speaker at the end of the fiasco would depend upon how he treated the very members of Congress who were causing the fiasco.
So Boehner played along, too long. The government shut down and Boehner prays that his relatively small constituency in southern Ohio would remember little and forgive much.
Such was the lay of the land as the trees began to turn and football players took the field. The Democrats looked about the detritus from the Tea Party’s failed coup and realized that between bad and worse, it was better to be bad.
Then the long awaited date for the launch of the President’s flagship of legislative success arrived. Healthcare.gov hit computer screens and the fan. Healthcare.gov. Say it too loud, and the screen will freeze. Say it too soft, and it will erase all your input. Don’t say it all and join the majority of Americans who are overwhelmed with its troubles and underwhelmed with the Obama administration’s appaling incompetence.
Healthcare.gov has driven devoted Obama supporters to tears and rage. It raises an underlying suspicion that despite his rhetorical genius, the President’s managerial skills may not be up to par. The cold suspicion, never to be spoken out loud, is that the good talker might have fooled those who so want to support him, but now go wobbly, concerned over his failures and what appears to be the undue influence of Valerie Jarrett.
The launch of Healthcare.gov wasn’t a just a failure. It was and remains an unmitigated disaster. The mother of all computer glitches now feeds into those clichés about Republicans and Democrats that have risen out of years of anecdotes, tales and stories. Republicans are cold, commercial ,sober, sententious and competent. Democrats are big hearted, warm, humanists, not unacquainted with excess, appetite, second chances, and grading on the curve. They’re also helplessly, inalterably and interminably incompetent.
One might not want to party with Republicans over the holidays, but they’ve got the reputation of getting the job done. One might want to stay up all night with an old Democrat pol from Boston and trade war stories until dawn, but don’t expect much to get done the next day or the day after that. These clichés might not be empirically sound, but in politics as in life, appearance is everything.
Between now and the 2014 mid term elections Republicans and Democrats will have to consider that life moves forward in a series of cycles. As one commentator, quoting Mark Twain, has said: History doen’t repeat, but it does rhyme.
Ever since the media in all its forms obtained top rung in the hierarchy of this society’s determining functions, the voters’ sentiment cycle has become shorter and shorter, ever approaching the duration of the news cycle for a particular time.
Therefore to predict an outcome from literally hundreds of news cycles away is as dependable and accurate as a weather genius predicting the wind speed, temperature, skies and precipitation for the first Tuesday in November, 2014. It can’t be done. What smells like victory today (with a respectful nod to Robert Duvall, napalm and Apocalypse Now) might smell like something entirely different next November. Of course it’s too early to say, but smelling anything at this stage of the game is a useless exercise in prediction, especially when one considers that both Republicans and Democrats have shown considerable skill in snatching defeat from the considerable jaws of victory.
By: Michael Hogan