Smarting from defeat in 2012, Republican politicians were warned by one of their own not to be the "stupid party." Their response to the caution was not to do anything but obstruct the initiatives of President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate. Luckily for the GOP, it worked. The blame for federal government inaction fell mostly on President Obama and helped Republicans win majority control of Congress in 2014.
Now, however, the admonition not to be stupid takes on added urgency since Republicans cannot employ default to satisfy the electorate. The GOP's recent congressional victory magnifies the responsibility to govern, and so far, the party has failed spectacularly in that regard.
One of their first orders of business was to pick a major fight that they could not win by pitting themselves in effect against the overwhelming majority of the American people. The newly installed Republicans pulled off this "feat" by announcing a campaign against "environmental extremists" and supposedly excessive anti-pollution regulations.
The flaw with this strategy is that at the end of the day, a yearning for a safe and healthy environment is as deeply ingrained in the American psyche as motherhood and respect for private property. Most of the public -- even grassroots Republicans normally wary of government intervention -- have great tolerance for increased tightening of regulations that protect their health and safety. This broad expression of public support is especially conspicuous in the aftermath of disasters that the regulations were designed to address.
Thus, the Republican majority's vow to roll back environmental regulations that they believe overreach will be a losing electoral proposition in the long run, even if it may please hardline libertarians opposed to virtually any governmental intervention.
Oblivious to the potential backlash to environmental insensitivity, the recently crowned Republican majority began their tenure with protracted debate regarding a heavily polluting oil pipeline. It culminated in congressional passage, even though the measure was doomed from the start by President Obama's veto and alienated environmentalists across the nation. The exercise was a colossal waste of time and taxpayers' money that will ultimately not endear the Republicans to an electorate fed up with congressional ineptitude.
When not pontificating on the pipeline, elements of the Republican Party were denying the existence of human-induced global warming. Such skepticism was demonstrated by a lawmaker tossing a snowball on the Senate floor in the midst of a near-record Washington cold snap.
Add to the GOP's environmental myopia impugning President Obama's love of country, bringing the Department of Homeland Security to the brink of a shutdown, and triggering partisan tensions with Israel, and what do you have? A self-defeating, ideologically driven fixation on demolishing President Obama's legacy, void of any positive national governance. It has blinded the party of the need to deal with the big picture and seek compromise that is the basic tool of a functioning democracy.
The result is the governmental paralysis that Republicans vowed to disband and that could stigmatize their brand for years to come. This is especially so if they fail to revise their environmental posture as severe climate-related disruptions invariably intensify.
Time will tell just how "stupid" the party really is.
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