If the sound of loud cackling wakes you up in the middle of the night, that's the Republicans crowing about their recent wins in the 2009 gubernatorial races while they meet this week in Austin.
The GOP is downright giddy that, after three straight years of electoral losses at the federal and state level, it won the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey. The fact is, Virginia and New Jersey were about two things: Virginia and New Jersey. These states have voted against the party in the White House for decades, and they did it again this November. There's nothing out of the ordinary here. The question of the day, however, is not about 2009. It's about 2010 and whether America will continue down a new path of promise and prosperity, or whether it will cut a screeching U turn and return to the policies that caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Republicans insist that these recent elections signal that the American public is yearning for a "GOP Comeback." To the contrary, Americans - and independent voters in particular - want results, not politics. The Republican party is the last place to find them. Unlike the intellectually robust Republican party of 1993, this group of Republicans has narrowed their ambitions to a single word: "no." No to finally lowering our skyrocketing health care costs. No to pulling our nation from the economic crisis they created. No to anything that may further solidify our President's standing when it could come at the cost of their own - even when it's good for the country.
As an alternative, they tout an obtuse agenda they call the "GOP Comeback." While short on specifics, it's clear from their rhetoric that their central organizing idea is a return to the same failed, job-killing ideas Americans overwhelmingly rejected in 2008: tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations, little to no government oversight, and slashing efforts to help grow the middle class. But the so-called "GOP Comeback" is not just a return to the failed ideas of the past, it's a return to the failed leaders of the past. The roster of candidates starring in the Comeback include lackluster has-beens such as Bill McCollum, Scott McInnis, Sam Brownback, Rick Lazio, and of course John Kasich. This IS your father's GOP.
Not just are the Republicans trying to pawn yesterday's wares, but they remain a house divided. There is a vicious civil war taking place in the Republican party. We saw this struggle engulf the 2009 House and Governors' races, and now it's spreading to states like Colorado, where the moderates pushed out conservative newcomer Josh Penry. This move raised the ire of right-wing stalwart Tom Tancredo, who is now threatening to take Penry's place and carry the torch of the conservatives against the mushy-moderate Scott McInnis. In Iowa, former four-term Governor Terry Branstad is getting pummeled daily by his GOP brethren for promising to raise taxes. A recent poll showed that more than 50 percent of Republicans would rather vote for an ideologically pure candidate than someone who can win. The Republicans will continue to struggle so long as hot-headed purists weigh them down.
What's more, this party has no clear leader. Like Cerberus, the Republican party has many heads, all of them angry. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Steele, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Joe Wilson...all of these politicians have a claim to being the leader of the GOP. And all of them alienate most Americans.
While the GOP fights its civil war and searches for its soul, Democrats will continue with what we have set out to do: bring about much needed change and usher in a new era of hope and prosperity. With the President not even a year into his Administration, Democratic Governors are working with him every day to create jobs and make life better for all Americans. At the same time, Democratic Governors are demonstrating that our brand of management works at the state level as well as it does on the federal level. The nonpartisan Governing Magazine just named Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley the best Governor in the country. Five of the seven states with AAA bond ratings have Democratic Governors. To the chagrin of the pessimists, our Governors are proving that it is possible to cut budgets while preserving investments in education and health care that are the foundation of prosperity for the next generation.
There is a lot of work to be done, and American voters will reward the party that retains its optimism and puts forth a concrete plan to return prosperity. Republicans' anxiety and pessimism about our future will not fare well with the voters. More importantly, while the jury on the new Administration is still out, the case against the Republicans has long been closed. Their failed ideas, and certainly their failed leaders, are unlikely to see a return. Perhaps that rooster crow will be a wake up call to a party whose ideas have long been dormant: stand up and offer real solutions or reconcile yourselves to a lifetime in the minority.
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