When the Senate's Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor this week to denounce the latest version of Chris Dodd's vision for how American finance and banking ought to be run, McConnell eased fears among conservatives of all sorts that the GOP would go along with an alleged Wall Street makeover just to avoid the prospect of an MSM chorus of denunciation of Republicans as obstructionists.
McConnell blistered the Dodd bill as a pathway to future bailouts and in a stroke gave the GOP firm ground on which to fight.
Now if he can only do the same thing twice more.
Disgust with the runaway Congress that blew past the objections of a large majority of Americans when it came to Obamacare has not dissipated in the weeks since the jam-down occured. President Obama's poll numbers have hit new all-time lows and could drop further as the parade of horribles associated with Obamacare gets longer and longer and new and unpleasant surprises seem to emerge every day.
This is not a Congress to inspire confidence. In fact, this Congress inspires a great deal of fear and, in some quarters, loathing. Voters cannot wait until November to deliver the political punishment that always follows parties and politicians who turn their faces against their people who sent them to D.C.
With this sort of voter revolt brewing, Congressional Republicans would be crazy to cooperate in any additional massive exercises in legislation. Principled, vocal and sustained opposition to the growth of government and the massive deficits that have accompanied that growth is the only platform the Republicans need or should want for the fall. They need to be the "party of no" when it comes to the Democrats' agenda.
The banking bill is just one of the big three statutory nightmares the Senate GOP has to oppose, regardless of what the editorial pages of the Washington Post and New York Times opine..
The other two big pushes from the left are for cap-and-tax and immigration "reform." Cooperation with either legislative effort will substantially injure the efforts of grassroots conservatives to rebuild trust with the Republican lawmakers inside the Beltway. It is political suicide to do deals with Democrats right now or any time between now and November. Part of the story of the loss of the Republican majority in 2006 was the refusal of the Congressional Republicans to hold together and make use of the advantage voters gave them in November, 2004. They were not perceived as a fighting party, but as a go-along party.
Much of that suspicion has burnt off, the reward for fighting the good if unsuccessful fight against Obamacare.
All of the good will would be lost if the GOP is seen to partner with any expansion of the federal government at this juncture, or with any erosion in the Constitution's basic structure.
Thus the absolute necessity of stopping cap-and-tax and of opposing all but the most carefully-worded immigration reforms from emerging out of the Senate.
There is zero room for "negotiation" on the former subject, and the continued dalliance of Senator Lindsey Graham with Democrats on the so-called "sector-by-sector" approach on emissions controls threatens not only the economy but also the prospects for Graham's long-time ally John McCain who has been working to repair relations with conservative voters in Arizona in advance of his primary contest with former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. In recent weeks the feeling has been growing that Hayworth's momentum and peaked and that the GOP standard bearer from 2008 was beginning to solidify his standing as a stalwart of the Senate GOP on any number of issues but especially those related to national security. McCain's skepticism of the recent nuclear arms treaty was just the most recent of his high-rpofile and effective statements of opposition to President Obama's agenda. McCain is clearly running as a conservative, and that is a winning approach.
A Graham-led "deal" on cap-and-tax, however, could easily snowball into a full-throated rejection of the D.C. GOP elite, including Senator McCain. This is the message that Mitch McConnell and GOP Whip Jon Kyl have to deliver again and again to the caucus: The electorate is judging us a whole, and they are not in the mood for Beltway compromises and insider deals.
This is probably understood on the subject of immigration as the memory of disaster that was the 2007 push for reform without border security is still fresh enough to warn off would-be deal-makers.
But it is unclear if all GOP senators understand that the same revulsion is waiting any bargain on banking and cap-and-tax.
This is the season for loyal, full-throated opposition and a referendum in the fall on the huge lurch left led by the president, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
Let's hope that all 41 members of the Rebublican understand the basic dynamic of this election.