The Republican National Committee is out with a 100-page analysis of how the party can revive its sagging fortunes. Doubtless many of the recommendations are good ones -- more outreach to minority and women voters, better candidate recruitment, fewer debates during the primaries, openness to immigration reform, competing with Democrats in absentee and early voting and much more.
Some of these things may help, or at least, as my grandmother would have said about chicken soup for a cold, they can't hurt. Others sound a little desperate, such as "Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV, and magazines such as People, Us Weekly, etc., as well as radio stations that are popular with the youth demographic." Maybe, but only if they're naturally witty and hip. I don't see Mitch McConnell walking away as a conquering hero from such encounters (though he's probably twice as smart as Stewart or Colbert).
Republicans are suffering from a bad case of political whiplash. There's a fine line between healthy self-examination and masochistic self-flagellation. It's bracing that Republicans are grappling with their weaknesses -- I've been arguing for more than a decade that the party's tone on immigration was needlessly alienating the fastest growing group in America -- but it's also important to remember that Democrats have problems of their own.
Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson, two smart analysts who served the last victorious Republican, offer some of the alarming data in the March Commentary magazine. "Of the last six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 210 for the Republican." These losses track the changing nature of the electorate. White voters have declined from 89 percent in 1976 to 72 percent in 2012. Wehner and Gerson write: "Consider the performance of Mitt Romney, who carried the white vote by 20 points. If the country's demographic composition were still the same last year as it was in 2000, he would now be president. If it were still the same as it was in 1992, he would have won in a rout. If he had merely secured 42 percent of the Hispanic vote ... Romney would have won the popular vote and carried Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico. Republicans, in short, have a winning message for an electorate that no longer exists." Ouch.
Wehner and Gerson also touch upon the damage done to the traditional Republican advantage in foreign and security policy by the "decidedly mixed legacy" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reviewing the party's performance with, take your pick, young people, women, the unmarried, and blacks is enough to make even the hardiest Republican reach for the hemlock.
Yet lurking just around the corner is the greatest potential threat to Democratic fortunes in decades -- the implementation of Obamacare. Obama managed in 2012 to escape responsibility for the slow-growth, high-unemployment, high-debt economy by blaming his predecessor (along with the Japanese tsunami, the European debt crisis and ATM machines). But he and his party cannot avoid ownership of Obamacare. They pitched that boomerang into the air in 2010, and it's just now reversing course and aiming right at their heads. Obamacare will be the most acute and direct experience most Americans have with Obama's policies. The start date was delayed until after the 2012 election. Now the bills are starting to accumulate.Employers are already responding to the law's perverse incentives by failing to hire, decreasing the hours of existing employees so that they don't count as full-time to evade coverage mandates and revising expansion plans so that they don't cross the threshold of 50 employees, above which they must provide insurance or pay a fine. The CBO estimates that 7 million workers will lose their health coverage altogether. The IRS assumes that health insurance will cost the average family $20,000 by 2016.
Though Obama promised that health insurance rates would fall by $2,500 by the end of his first term, they've increased by an average of $3,000. The Wall Street Journal reports that 13 states will see further premium increases of between 65 and 100 percent. Because the law requires that employees' children be kept on until age 26, many plans are dropping spouses. The state exchanges aren't ready. Eighty-three percent of doctors are considering retiring due to Obamacare. Most analysts agree that, at the very least, wait times at doctors' offices will increase -- if you can get an appointment at all. Medicaid, bankrupt before, will be deeper in the hole. It's a mess.
And it's Obama's mess.