Divide and conquer

Trying to strangle the triangulators with triangulation

Why did House Republicans adopt this tactic? Why would they expect to successfully divide the Democratic Party, pitting one fraction of that party against another? The Washington Independent has an explanation:

House Republicans are in unfamiliar and politically unpromising territory. Unlike their counterparts in the Senate, they have very few methods of slowing down or stopping legislation they don't like. Their influence was reduced two weeks ago by a rule change that effectively prevents members of the minority party from forcing votes on controversial amendments, one of the few cudgels the party had in the House.

In response, Republicans are attempting to link themselves to the popular Obama administration while criticizing the work of the Democratic Congress. The goal is to oppose Democratic policy without being seen as opposing or obstructing the president, a posture that, they hope, will put them in better position to win back voters if the Democrats' popularity falters.

Their chosen technique comes with risks, of course. The House Republican strategy would likely fail if the Republicans in general are seen as obstructing the passage of the Democratic Party's economic legislation while a disturbing economic crisis rages on. They might then acquire much of the blame for the specific course of the crisis, an achievement that would be appropriate in any case. It would also fail if the public treats the appearance of bipartisan cooperation as evidence reflecting the new President's political acumen and munificence but not a spirit of 'cooperation' originating within the House Republican caucus. And, of course, it would fail if the Republicans were to successfully hide within Obama's shadow and the President's programs then failed to resolve the diverse crises which now trouble the country. They would share in the blame

On the other hand, the tactic is not doomed to failure right from the get go. In fact, since the House Republicans clearly wish to secure their Party's power while also avoiding the taking of responsibility for the crisis situation Republican policies and methods had a hand in bringing about, they may actually succeed because they are excellent practitioners of this devious kind of self-promotion. But the odds of their succeeding are unfavorable. After all, the political and economic crises of the day are direct consequences of the policies that defined the Right Turn in American politics after 1980. This is not a situation which can be easily blamed on the Democrats. And the 2006 and 2008 elections suggest that the electorate has grown tired of the GOP.

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