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United Opposition

Brit Hume on “Fox News Sunday” explained what Obama has done for the Republicans:

One of the things that the Obama program has clearly done in Washington is to unite the Republican Party in Congress which had been divided by the Bush years, by discomfort among many conservatives over the level of spending that Juan just correctly mentioned, and so on. Now comes some really big spending that dwarfs, really, what the Bush administration had done over time, and it has succeeded in uniting the Republican Party. Now it appears it is beginning to unite people around the country who would be disposed in favor of the Republican Party because of the striking comparison between what it did and what the Democratic Party in control of Washington is now doing.

It remains to be seen whether more than core conservatives unite around Republicans. The Obama agenda has provided Republicans with a clear focus domestically — opposition to Obama’s ambitious liberal agenda and preservation of free market capitalism. But many argue that it is not sufficient to revive their fortunes.

One school of thought is based on the 2006 experience. Opposition to Congressional corruption and a mishandled war was plenty sufficient for a Democratic sweep in 2006. No one remembers now (and few knew then) what specific agenda Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats were presenting. They trotted out multi-phase plans every few weeks, but the main thrust was: “not the other guys.”

The other school of thought is that the public wants “solutions,” and that simple opposition is not going to enable the Republicans to return to power. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America helped nationalize the 1994 election and provide the public with the outline of a reform agenda. That’s what the Republicans should be striving toward, say some conservative analysts (including, not surprisingly, Gingrich himself).

But whichever model one believes more applicable, one thing is clear: Obama has not divided his opposition by playing to the center or by re-capturing the mantle of fiscal responsibility and government reform. There was a reason candidate Obama ran on promises to “go line by line through the budget,” lower taxes, and root out lobbyists. These are themes which have broad appeal to moderate Republicans, independents, and fiscally conservative Democrats.

Having jettisoned that approach in favor of an ultra-liberal program and hyper-partisan style of governance, Obama now will test whether the electorate has moved Left. If so (and more critically, if his policies revive the economy and smother unemployment), his taxation and spending plan may prove wildly popular and the voters will give their stamp of approval at the mid-term elections.  If not, the united Republican opposition may recover those voters who are now having second thoughts about one-party rule in the age of Obama. But there will certainly be, as Hume observed, a “striking comparison” to be made between the parties.



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