The surprise retirement of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey suggests that even Democrats are counting on a big GOP victory in November. Obey's decision likely was driven by fear of a Republican takeover of the House, which would make him the ranking member of Appropriations, not its chairman. But a lot can happen between now and the election -- and Republicans shouldn't get too giddy over their presumed victory come November.
In order to win control of Congress, Republicans need to turn out both their own base and Independents who are angry at what's going on in Washington. But some of the anger and fear about the future seem to be dissipating. Consumer confidence is higher than it has been since February 2008, according to the latest Rasmussen polls. And, for the first time in a year, Rasmussen reports that more Americans think Republicans in Congress are acting in a more partisan way than Democrats are, which turns off Independents. And while the polls on a generic Congressional ballot show Republicans still ahead -- 44-37 percent -- the GOP hasn't broken the 50 percent mark and has lost the 10 percent lead it enjoyed a few weeks ago.
A number of issues pose a danger for Republicans in the months ahead. Republicans are in a no-win situation when it comes to the current proposals to "reform" Wall Street and the banks. It's clear from watching congressional hearings on the issue that Democrats (and some Republicans) put the entire blame for the economic collapse that occurred in 2008 on the financial industry. The only financial reform being seriously considered would punish banks and overpaid Wall Street execs in ways that could have long-term negative consequences for the economy.
But there is plenty of blame to spread around. Tens of thousands of people bought houses they couldn't afford, lied on their mortgage applications, and borrowed against phantom equity. Sure, the banks lent them the money and investors gambled that the loans were good, but borrowers should shoulder some responsibility for their actions. But instead of allowing these borrowers to reap what they sowed, politicians on both sides of the aisle support bailing them out. The GOP has been content to ride the populist tide in recent months, but populism has its pitfalls. Sometimes the vox populi is wrong.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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