When things are going poorly, it is time to change the way you conduct business. Republicans in Congress were delivered a strong rebuke in the last election with the loss of the popular vote nationwide in the 2018 midterms, big losses in the House and a strong likelihood that this voting pattern will repeat itself in the next cycle if they don’t change something. It looks like Republicans have some serious messaging problems moving forward and, as of now, they don’t seem to be doing anything to change the way they do business.
How does the old saying go? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Let’s hope Republicans don’t engage in political insanity by doing nothing to right the sinking Republican ship.
Republicans have two big problems looking to a new Congress after an election where they lost 40 seats in the House of Representatives. The first order of business should be to clean up their own house with regard to ethics. Second is to come up with a compelling agenda. If Republicans can’t solve these two problems, they will toil in the minority for years to come.
Trust is an important factor in regaining the votes of the American people. While the Democratic controlled House is expected to continue endless investigations into the Trump administration, Republican members of the House have their own problems. Two members just re-elected are under indictment – Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Both were indicted last year before the elections and Republicans in the House are now struggling with rules changes to prevent indicted members from serving in leadership positions.
Even the House Freedom Caucus has not been free of ethical taint. The chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) was hit with an ethics sanction for “failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that his House office was free from discrimination and any perception of discrimination” that resulted from his former Chief of Staff being accused of harassment. This sanction may hurt Meadows’ chances to become ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Solving ethics concerns will help Republicans on the issue of trust, then they need to push ideas that will motivate voters to support them for promising changes that will make voters’ lives better.
A bigger problem than the ethics lapses is the fact that Republicans, right now, have no agenda. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in Bloomberg that Republicans in 2019 “are not planning to do much of anything at all.” He made the case that Republicans have promised to confirm President Donald J. Trump’s judicial nominations and not much else. Looking back at the past two years, they failed to repeal and replace Obamacare and passed a tax bill that was light on middle class tax cuts. Republicans had control of the House, Senate and the White House for the last two years and could not even pass funding for President Trump’s long promised wall on the southern border.
Ponnuru correctly points to a time when the Republicans promoted a “Contract with America” where they listed out promises – no way that happens today. Republicans in Congress seem to have no consensus on how to thwart the left’s push for Democratic Socialist ideas like “Medicare for All.” They are unlikely to push for even more tax cuts nor new regulatory reforms. The agenda for the next two years for Republicans does not exist.
Republicans have a rather complicated scenario playing out over the next few years with solid control of the Senate and the White House, yet the House in control of Democrats intent on causing political mayhem. Republicans in the House will be spending most of their time defending the president’s tax cuts and administration officials expected to be hauled before Congress. Republicans would be in a far better position if they were in the minority in both chambers so they could regroup, clean up the ethics problems in the caucus and come up with five to ten promises to complete in the next two years.
In the short term, Republicans should embrace Trump’s restrained foreign policy and wind down the war in Afghanistan. Another idea would be to push hard to extend the Trump middle class tax cuts while expanding the cuts so that Americans have more take home pay. Restoring market forces to health care cost would be a big victory to combat the Democrats’ push for a full government takeover of the delivery of health care services.
The bottom line is that Republicans need to make some serious changes to regain the trust of voters going into 2020. They can lash themselves to the sail of President Donald J. Trump in the next election cycle and pray for victory, but that might not be enough. They may actually have to put some points on the board to prove that they are worthy of voters’ support. If not, it is possible that President Trump gets re-elected while the do-nothing Republicans in Congress suffer another voter revolt.