The Self-Defeating Republican Strategy
By Jeff Knox
(September 7, 2018) As we pass out of Primary Season here in Arizona, and enter General Election Season nationwide, I’m struck by the lack of any sort of cohesive election strategy on the part of the GOP. While Senate Republicans are focused on confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the House Republicans are milling about doing little beyond throwing rocks at each other and the President over accusations of misconduct on the part of a couple of their members, and a pair of unsourced, but sensational portraits of chaos in the West Wing.
Republicans keep following a non-strategy of just reacting to the latest media attacks, and their strategists appear to be as disdainful of their own base as the Democrat elites are. They show no signs of having a plan for winning in November, so here’s a suggestion for them. For years I have encouraged state grassroots groups to adopt a double-pronged legislative agenda. The first prong is their Action Agenda – the legislation they really want to get passed – while the second prong is their Political Agenda – legislation that might not be passable, but which will force legislators to take a stand prior to reelection season.
Congress should be taking a similar approach. The confirmation of Kavanaugh is pretty good election season fodder for Republicans, but it is also firing-up the Democrat base. Rather than dragging it out as they are doing now, the Republican leadership should dispense with the kabuki theater of drawn-out hearings, and simply move forward with a confirmation vote. No new information about Judge Kavanaugh or his positions will be revealed in these hearings, and the hearings are not going to change any minds or votes. The only purpose the hearings serve is a forum for showboating on both sides, and an opportunity for a lot of whining and outrageous accusations flowing from the left and their media allies. Senator Grassly should abbreviate the committee hearings, going through the proforma motions as quickly as possible and moving straight to a vote of the Judiciary Committee. Then Mitch McConnell should act similarly, moving the confirmation debate quickly and getting straight to a vote. We all know that this will be a straight party-line vote, and that it is not Democrats who will decide whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, but Republicans, specifically Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The slim, one-seat majority Republicans hold in the Senate was, until last Monday, in reality a 49-49 split, since John McCain was still holding a seat, even though he hadn’t been present for a vote in months. That meant that one Republican defector would have been able to sink the Kavanaugh nomination. Collins and Murkowski want to keep their seats for a few more terms, and being the Republican who kept the Supreme Court in play for more anti-rights leftist abuse, would be a hard label to live down. Flake on the other hand is retiring from the Senate, and he’s demonstrated a nasty vindictive streak where President Trump is concerned, so there was some real worry that he might take his war with the president to a new low by voting against Kavanaugh, or simply not show up for the vote. Thankfully that shouldn’t matter now that Jon Kyl has been appointed to fill McCain’s seat. While Kyl falls far short of being a reliable conservative, he has been shepherding Kavanaugh around to Senate offices and is unlikely to undermine his own work.
So why are Republicans drawing out the confirmation process? The Democrats wrote the new rules, and Republicans should play be those rules. Drawing the process out does nothing to help Republican prospects in the midterms, but it is serving as a rallying point to activate the Democrat base. Instead Republicans should get the confirmation process done, and move on to an issue where there is strong bi-partisan support – among voters – and serious vulnerability among Democrat incumbents: Guns.
A dozen Senate Democrats are vulnerable in the coming midterms. At least 10 of those would be significantly damaged by a record vote against a popular gun bill. Voting for a gun bill would do no harm to the electoral prospects of any Republican senators, and would help most.
In the House, Republican prospects are not looking great. Many Republicans announced their retirements last year in anticipation of a wave of Democrats in response to the election of President Trump. That wave was growing to a tsunami late last year, but quickly lost momentum with passage of the president’s tax bill in December, and has been rising and falling like a weak tide ever since, mainly dictated by the president’s Twitter activity. Most Americans seem pleased with the direction Congress has taken over the past two years, and the condition of the country. Republicans should be in great shape, but President Trump seems determined to keep feeding fuel to the Democrat base.
Like the Senate, Republicans in the House would significantly benefit from public debate and action on firearm-related legislation. GunVoters have been seriously frustrated by Republicans’ failure to follow through on promises to pass pro-rights legislation. The National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act passed out of the House last December, but has been stalled in the Senate ever since. That bill is ripe for action in the Senate as soon as Justice Kavanaugh is confirmed. The other key bill that GunVoters have been waiting for action on in the House is the Hearing Protection Act. We thought we were going to see action on that last year, but it was successfully shot down by a crazed Bernie Sanders supporter who decided to take target practice at a Republican baseball practice.
Republicans in the House should immediately start pushing through the SHARE Act, which is an omnibus hunting, fishing, and land access bill that includes the Hearing Protection Act, along with several other much-needed firearm law reforms. The SHARE Act enjoys some bi-partisan support, and is an excellent vehicle for Republicans to regain support of GunVoters. Bringing the SHARE Act back into the spotlight would give House Republicans something positive to talk about, and passing the bill out of the House would give Senate Republicans some leverage for offering Democrats a no-win choice of voting on either the National Carry bill or the SHARE Act, forcing them to either allow one of the bills to go to a vote, or take a hard stand to block them from the floor. Either choice hurts them.
As I have said repeatedly in these pages, Guns Win, and it’s high time that Republican “leadership” figured that out.