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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Instead of autopsies on the dead, Republicans could use new leaders

What, me worry?

In posing the question, I’m not referring to legendary cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine fame and his well-known catchphrase. The “worry” part concerns Republicans in the aftermath of last month’s midterm elections. Conservatives have undergone a great deal of soul searching in the past five weeks, Congressexamining the heavens -- and data sheets -- for clues, not only to discover what went wrong on November 6, but also for inspiration on how to avoid a similar fate on Election Day 2020.

Scott Wong reported at The Hill, “In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter [to incoming House GOP campaigns chief Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)] obtained by The Hill, [GOP New York Rep. Elise] Stefanik and other allies wrote Monday that the ‘disappointing results’ of the November election ‘require an honest, transparent assessment of the structural operations and decision-making process that led to our party losing an historic number of seats.’

“The GOP, the lawmakers wrote, lost a number of seats in suburban and other areas that traditionally have backed Republican candidates. The number of female House Republicans will drop from 23 to just 13 next year. After the November drubbing, Stefanik, who led GOP recruitment efforts for the NRCC in the 2018 cycle, said GOP leaders needed to do a better job intervening in primaries to help nominate more female candidates…

“’We specifically ask the incoming Chair and Leadership team to undergo a thorough and transparent strategic assessment of NRCC operations along with House Leadership’s 2018 agenda to formally analyze what went wrong, what lessons were learned — including those learned from the successful efforts of our Democratic counterparts — and what will be done to better support the next generation of Republican congressional candidates,’ Stefanik and the others wrote.”

Just what everyone needs -- more establishment control of primaries. If one didn’t know better, you’d speculate Stefanik hopes to cover her proverbial rear here; after all, she was in charge of recruiting candidates for the midterm elections, right? On the surface it would appear Stefanik is correct about bringing in more women -- female Democrats did exceptionally well on Election Day -- but would running more Republican women have really turned the blue “wave” into a ripple?

Alas, another call for an “autopsy” to assess and fix an election drubbing (or at least on the House side). Shortly after Mitt Romney’s disastrous defeat to the beatable Barack Obama in 2012 the GOP establishment called for a similar type of self-reflection and examination. As I recall the eventual report indicated the party should soften its tone and rhetoric so as to broaden its appeal to the ever-growing Hispanic demographic.

In other words, six years ago Republican higher-ups suggested more pandering to Hispanic voters and now, after this year’s setback, the elites’ conventional wisdom points towards more compassion and listening to women voters. What “identity politics” constituency will be next, east Asian Muslim immigrants?

In conducting these “autopsies,” the GOP acts just like Democrats. Instead of looking inwardly and acknowledging that party congressional leaders screwed up by wasting precious time on intra-caucus bickering over the appropriate size of the federal welfare state (i.e., keeping Obamacare in place, but which parts?), they should’ve been aiming at following President Trump’s lead and enacting the most crucial elements of the MAGA agenda.

That’s what voters sent them to Washington to do, not squabble over minutiae and special interests’ carve outs. Big business interests, insurance companies, drug companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have little in common with the common folks in Rust Belt small towns. People “out there” are bone weary of dealing with excessively high healthcare costs and the all-too-preventable ill effects of illegal immigration.

Conservative Americans counted on Congress to put in place policies that could actually make a difference in people’s lives -- or in the (better) alternative, get government out of the way to allow the marketplace to adjust prices. Trump did what he could from an executive standpoint to clear a path for expanded energy production and to negotiate more favorable agreements with America’s trade partners, but where was Congress in doing its part?

Would recruiting more women candidates -- and electing them -- have resulted in Republicans’ passing an Obamacare replacement bill? How about a working immigration reform package that addressed Trump’s four pillars -- some form of legal status for certain classes of immigrants (the DREAMERS), border security (the wall), ending the disastrously shortsighted diversity lottery (in favor of encouraging more skilled and ready to assimilate immigrants) and ending chain migration.

On these matters Republican leaders (and this means you, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell) dawdled over minor considerations of wishy-washy RINO legislators who couldn’t summons the gumption to repeal Obamacare or appropriate funds for border security -- and for what? Almost all of these so-called middle-of-the-road House GOPers (including plenty of Republican women members) either retired or ended up losing to their Democrat opponents anyway. So, if they were making “principled” stands on Trump agenda items back then just to maintain their electoral viability, it was all for naught.

The GOP doesn’t need another “autopsy;” Republicans should read and reread the platform passed at the party convention in 2016 and get to work crafting legislation voters want and demand. It wasn’t all that complicated, especially when there were majorities to pass bills and a president who promised to sign them. Yes, there’s always the filibuster hurdle in the senate, but at least where Obamacare was concerned it could’ve been done away with using a simple majority (and the reconciliation process) in the upper chamber.

Making matters worse was congressional GOP leaders’ unwillingness to curtail spending. Ryan and McConnell were proud of hashing out big increases in military outlays and passing a significant tax reform measure but weren’t able to parlay their power into forcing Democrats to compromise on their own priorities. Democrats supplied no input or support for any of the “big” legislative efforts in the past two years, yet when it came time to decide on budget matters Democrats got everything they wanted.

And they’re still haggling over wall funding. Do some things never change?

If Republicans are disinclined to provide distinction from the Democrats, why vote to keep them in the majority? GOP leaders should be scared to death of what an “autopsy” might reveal -- namely that they have no heart in addition to lacking a spine.

Still there will be those who blame President Trump for all the party’s woes. Are Trump’s excessive tweeting habits truly scaring people away? Julia Manchester reported at The Hill, “Morning Consult polling editor Cameron Easley said on Monday that President Trump's tweets have made it difficult for the Republican Party to stay on message.

“’I think it's really interesting to look back at how the president used Twitter during the campaign, very similar to how he uses it now. There's been virtually no change at all,’ Easley told Hill.TV's Joe Concha on ‘What America's Thinking.’ ‘He used to be able to monopolize the news cycle and earn media time to his benefit. As the leader of the country, it seems to have really had more of an adverse effect,’ he continued.

“’Republicans in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms really wanted to talk about the good news, talk about the economy, try to sell the tax bill,’ he said. ‘It's very difficult for the Republican Party to stay on message when every day the president is waking up and saying whatever he wants, waging an airing of grievances. That makes it very difficult to talk about anything that you want to [talk about].’”

At first glance what Easley observed appears true. Trump’s Twitter feed satisfies the media’s craving for nonstop negative sleaze, so it’s understandable how Republican candidates who hoped to focus on tax cuts and the excellent economy were upset at Trump’s monopolizing the talkers’ short attention spans through stream-of-consciousness social media bursts.

Doesn’t everyone wish they could go into an interview and simply answer questions about the topics they’d like to address? You’d need to be Hillary Clinton receiving debate queries in advance from Donna Brazile and the DNC (who’d taken over for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as chair of the party) in such a scenario. In the real world everyone takes their chances on what the interviewer’s intending to ask about -- and if it’s a mainstream media source, it will probably be a series of digs at Trump’s tweets.

Or at the president himself. Imagine we lived in a universe without social media (actually, not so long ago) and the president didn’t possess the capability to reach tens of millions of people directly and instantly (Trump now has 56.2 million Twitter followers and almost 25 million Facebook followers). Would it mean the media completely eases off their relentless get-Trump-at-all-costs attacks and instead just settles for jawing over tax cuts?

Hardly. The GOP ruling class uses Trump’s tweets as a distraction, a diversion so they won’t have to own up for all their failures (detailed above). And the mainstream establishment media pecks at Trump’s tweets because they’re an easy target and everyone instantly recognizes what you’re talking about.

It's like standing at the scene of a burning building and having the fire chief say, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

Instead of bashing Trump and getting off message, Republican RINOs could circle the wagons -- like Democrats do -- and present a united front to fight for the conservative agenda. If it isn’t clear by now that today’s battles are a political fight to the death, I’m not sure what else would convince the skeptics. The Robert Mueller “investigation” is a witch hunt, a waste of taxpayers’ resources and a justification for Democrats to keep talking about impeaching the president.

Shouldn’t they be weighing-in on the real issues of the day, like illegal immigration and what to do about it? Or how black Americans are betrayed and held back by Democrats? Liberal contrarian Juan Williams wrote at The Hill, “While he got a good provision into the Trump tax bill as the price for his vote, [South Carolina Republican Senator Tim] Scott still ended up supporting a Trump tax cut that in the short run benefits the richest one percent of Americans.

“That historic scam is exploding the deficit to pay for tax breaks for corporations and the rich. That means less federal dollars to help poor neighborhoods in need of revitalization.

“I am rooting for Scott and other principled black conservatives to reclaim the mantle of the party of Lincoln. There is a lot to lose if black conservative approaches to racial progress are sunk due to Trump loyalty tests. But the prospects for Scott and other black conservatives locked in the party of Trump look dim. They have nowhere to go as political polarization and racial divisions harden in advance of the 2020 election.”

This line of argument is curious considering Williams’ own son is a Republican. While it’s true Trump did lock horns with outgoing Utah Rep. Mia Love (who was one of the wishy-washy fence-sitting Republicans who lost last month and happens to be black), by no means did the dispute between the two have anything to do with race.

Love said (at her concession press conference) there are no “relationships, only transactions” when dealing with Trump. Fair enough. Love also called for more GOP engagement in black communities. Also, fair enough. But it’s a far stretch for Williams to claim racism in his latest anti-Trump screed. It’s his job, of course, but Williams merely echoes the accusations made by Democrats that Trump’s a racist and he’s only advancing his policy positions to satisfy his intrinsic distaste for brown and black folks.

There are a number of prominent and passionate African-American Trump supporters (Candice Owens, Ben Carson, Diamond & Silk, Star Parker, John James, etc…). Perhaps because of their skin color and the relative scarcity of black Republicans these individuals are provided outsized exposure by the media. But instead of being praiseworthy of these folks who cut against the liberals’ all-identity-politics-all-the-time mentality, they’re paraded before the public as freaks and “Uncle Toms,” traitors to their own kind.

Isn’t it about time we assess individuals by the “content of their character” and not their skin color (thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King)? Not everything should be viewed through a racial prism. Democrats prolong the argument because it’s all they have.

If you look close enough Republicans don’t need an “autopsy” or excessive soul-searching to indicate what party candidates should do ahead of the next election. A thorough reexamination of conservative principles and proposals would do the trick nicely…and while they’re at it, select new leaders too.

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