Recent polls back the conventional political wisdom that the GOP badly overplayed its hand in manufacturing the debt ceiling crisis and the partial government shutdown crisis. And that it's a spent party. In a CNN poll the overwhelming majority of respondents not only ripped the GOP for the shutdown but said that GOP congressional representatives should be defeated for reelection.
House Republicans apparently didn't bother to read the polls. They wasted no time in coming up with their eternal ploys to hammer the Affordable Health Care Act and by extension President Obama. In quick succession not one, not two, but three GOP dominated House committees announced with much public fanfare that they will be "investigating" the snags, glitches, and public complaints that have dogged the roll-out of the health care plan. Since the GOP has done everything it could to kill the plan, this can hardly be considered an honest effort to iron out the kinks and aid the public in gaining information on and facilitate access to the coverage available.
The announcement of the hearings came quickly on the heels of their even more pointed attack on the health plan and Obama. This came when Wisconsin House Rep. Paul Ryan demanded that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resign. She's a convenient and visible whipping person for the GOP assault. The Sebelius hit is simply a work over of the well-worn GOP tact of targeting an Obama official and then spending endless hours digging up and tossing every scintilla of manufactured political dirt, muck and grime it can find on the official. Attorney General Eric Holder, former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, have been the more prominent and visible targets.
The GOP's continuing withering attack on the Affordable Care Act though, is only one sign that it's way too soon to pull out the life support machine for the party for the 2014 midterm elections and beyond. It controls the House, still has sufficient numbers in the Senate to dither, delay and obstruct Obama's judicial appointments, implementation of health care reforms, tax and budget proposals, and regulatory reforms that still need bipartisan cooperation to pass.
The Supreme Court still has a five vote conservative majority and will decide a number of crucial cases on affirmative action, criminal justice, civil liberties and corporate liability issues. These cases will have a profound impact on law and public policy.
The GOP holds the majority of governorships and state houses nationally. They are major players when it comes to implementing the array of federal spending programs. This is especially vital in implementing health care reform. Some GOP governors have already played hard ball and said that they will not set up health provider exchanges and challenge the White House to do it. They also noisily announced that they will sharply pare back Medicaid allegedly because of unsustainable costs.
The GOP's special interest group tent includes major corporations, Christian evangelicals, and conservative rural voters. But it's the money train that's especially worrisome. The Supreme Court partially greased the wheels of major campaign donors in the 2010 Citizens United decision that partially opened the floodgates for king's ransom sums to flow to PACs and other independent expenditure GOP front groups. The court is now likely to go even further when it rules on the case brought by conservative Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon which seeks to completely knock out the 70-year-old prohibition that has largely put clamps on the amounts that individuals may contribute to political candidates, political-party committees, and non-party political committees all of course for the purpose of influencing national election campaigns. There's little doubt who an adverse court ruling will help most. McCutcheon left no doubt where his dollars have gone and will continue to go, "This case is about freedom of speech. It's about my right to make contributions to the candidates I choose."
Then there is the poll that purportedly shows the GOP allegedly on the rocks. It also ominously found that more than half said that Democratic incumbents should also be dumped from Congress. A significant number also said that they thought the Democrats like the Republicans were to extreme. This along with the GOP's congressional power base, its Tea Party core constituency, its big money donors and most importantly the penchant for collective memory loss on the part of many voters with the passage of time are still formidable trump cards for the party.
The GOP did not rattle its saber on Sebelius solely to grab a headline. It's relentless in pressing its full throated attack on Obama and the Democrats. This is hardly a party that's sunk.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM-Radio and the Pacifica Network.