Monday, April 27, 2009

The GOP: Not a Party, a Cautionary Tale

And one Democrats would do well to remember.

Despite what looks like a wealth of available material -- such as the populist outrage over American International Group, exploding deficits -- Republicans have been unable to do any damage to Obama's public image thus far, and it's not for lack of effort. The president returned from the Caribbean last week to a torrent of right-wing scorn and accusations that he was making America appear weak in the world and enabling our enemies by being too cozy with geopolitical hotheads like Hugo Chavez and Manuel Ortega.

First Newt Gingrich went on the "Today Show" to catalog Obama foreign-policy failings. "I think symbolically -- we've had weakness in the last two weeks with North Korea, we have weakness with Iran, we have bowing to the Saudi king, we have weakness with Hamas, we have weakness with Cuba," the former House speaker declared.

And just to drive home the point, former Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from his secret undisclosed location to warn: "The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests."

All week, the echo chamber tried to amplify the putting America at risk message: If only someone were listening. It seems that the only real consequence of the GOP's efforts so far is dwindling support and diminished credibility for the party. Obama's job-approval rating is at 64 percent in the latest Gallup poll, while only 22 percent of people think that the Republican Party care about people like them. For Democrats, that number was 57 percent.

Not many years ago, Democrats were all over the place. No focus, no identity. No real plan that spoke to voters, even within their own reliable base. What's happening now within the GOP is similar to those "post-Clinton" years for the Democrats, and not something that won't sneak up on the party again "post-Obama," should the relevant lessons not set in.

There is a lot of talk about progressive budgets, and progressive agendas being realized, but behind the scenes, the "brand" of the Democratic party needs to be cemented and sold in our own words (not the GOP's this time) to voters. It's too early to predict, with certainty, a full on political realignment of the nation, but without doubt the next few years will be a redefining period for the Democratic Party that will have lasting effects.

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