Sitting here daydreaming and wishing that maybe Republicans have vastly overplayed their hands this year – just as they did 12 years ago when they banked on impeachment of Clinton winning them more seats. Let’s say they succeed in picking up a dozen or fewer seats in the House, and perhaps just a seat or two in the Senate leaving the Democratic majorities shrunk only marginally. Republicans would have thrown everything they had at this election – and still come up short.
That would be lovely.
The repercussions of this scenario for the party would begin immediately with the futures of John Boehner, and his deputy, Eric Cantor, ability to hold leadership positions coming very much in doubt. That thought alone makes me smile. More than that, though, a full struggle would begin within the Republican Party over the degree it has aligned itself with the Tea Party movement. (This especially will be true if, as expected, Democrat Chris Coons trounces tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell for a Delaware Senate seat when mainstream Republican Mike Castle would have won that race handily.)
As recriminations mount inside the Republican Party, frustrated GOP incumbents who had been holding on just to see a return to majority status could begin heading for the exits. Beginning in a trickle, Republican retirements would soon pick up speed as lawmakers look to move on to greener pastures. (These retirements alone would seriously hurt Republican chances to retake majorities in 2012 and subsequent elections.)
But, as important as all of these consequences would be, a Republican failure to take back Congress this year would have even an even far-reaching significance: it likely would call into question the GOP’s entire longstanding strategy of obstructionism.
Almost since the day President Obama took office, Republicans have stood shoulder-to-shoulder, nearly unanimously trying to stand in the way of even the most modest of the president’s initiatives. They think that if they thwart progress – and deny the Democratic president credit for success on anything – they will frustrate voters. That frustration, the Republican thinking goes, would then compel voters back into the GOP camp.
But what if that thinking failed to produce the majorities Republicans so desperately crave (as in “I want my country back”). And, given how obstructionism has played a central role for their political game, I think it could not be underestimated how damaging it would be to the GOP if this tactic failed. I do not think Republicans have any other cards to play. A failure of obstructionism to win back a majority would cause a massive crisis of confidence inside the GOP. A crisis of confidence for Republicans only would be amplified should Obama see any uptick in his approval ratings, for even an incremental improvement in the economy.
Quite simply, Republicans’ spirits would be broken – and that thought makes me giggle out loud.
If they do not take back Congress this November, they would perhaps have an incentive to cooperate a little more with Obama and the Democrats, which in turn, could improve the prospects for such stalled initiatives as climate legislation and immigration reform.
All of this is enough to put a smile on nearly any liberal, moderate, or independent voter’s face. Maybe it is enough to get them out and voting in November.
But I am probably just dreaming.