Capitol Idea: Republicans Should Be Careful What They Wish For

When John Boehner steps out these days for a smoke break, his thoughts probably turn to the day in January when he hopes to accept the gavel as the next speaker of the House.

He’s probably not imagining, as he lights his next Camel Ultra Light, all the ways that the GOP two years from now likely will come to rue the day they won majority status.

But rue it, they will, because while Republican heads are filled with visions of 1994, the year they really should be thinking about — hard — is 1996.

That’s the year a Democratic president won re-election by effectively turning the American public against the Republican Congress.

And Republicans have to understand that as easily as they can reconstruct the GOP wave of ’94, Barack Obama will recreate the political environment of 1996, and use it to sail to a second term in 2012.

Indeed, Obama likely will have an even easier rebound than Bill Clinton, since so many of this year’s tea party candidates are so much more extreme, and even more determined, than Newt Gingrich and his crowd 16 years ago.

The coming inevitable Republican overreach will make the GOP of ’95 seem the picture of sensible moderation by comparison.

Republicans apparently are going to turn even more quickly to shutting down the government than they did 15 years ago. Tea party favorite Joe Miller, quite likely to be the next senator from Alaska, already is discussing it openly, in eager anticipation.

And in the ultimate Republican re-run, conservatives already are plotting the impeachment of Barack Obama. (If you thought the Republicans of 1997 had a thin case against ol’ Slick Willie, just see the whole lotta nothing they’ll use to indict Obama.)

What Republicans don’t seem to understand, or care, is the deja vu backlash they’ll face for all this.

The GOP has a high capacity for believing its own PR, such that Boehner, et. al., will truly believe that 2010 will harken some “permanent realignment” of voters back to their column.

That will be the furthest thing from the truth, and once again, Republicans will learn just how fickle independent voters can be.

Independents, who are turning back to the GOP purely out of frustration over the lingering high unemployment and their own economic anxiety, predictably will once again recoil at a government shutdown or impeachment.

Please remember, that for all the hype surrounding the tea party, independent voters really don’t think very much of it, given that a tea party endorsement makes most independents want to vote against a tea party candidate.

When these independents, who want economic progress, see instead partisan retribution, they’ll swing back to Obama’s side. (For all his faults, real and perceived, Obama always is the picture of reasonableness.)

Having won back independents disgusted with naked GOP partisanship, and with a re-energized Democratic base looking to recapture Congress, Barack Obama in 2012 once again will have amassed a winning coalition.

In the end, Boehner may well get that speaker’s gavel. But, so too, will Obama be raising his right hand to take his oath come Jan. 20, 2013 — and Republicans will have helped him get there.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as Republicans Should Be Careful What They Wish For on Blogcritics.

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