Anyone who follows American politics must be shaking their heads in disbelief at the drastic turn of events for Conservatives since November.
The midterm elections were a clear blow to President Obama and his party. Republicans took control of the House and diminished Democrats rule of the Senate. It was clear that American voters had, to use Obama's analogy, given the keys to the car back to Conservatives. The President acknowledged the defeat by calling it a “shellacking.” Right-wing pundits and politicians pounced on the opportunity to kick the Democrats while they were down. Polls taken after the election showed that the public overwhelmingly disapproved of Congress and the President's numbers were hitting all time lows.
Then came December. In a span of just a few short weeks, the President and the lame-duck Congress managed to pass several pieces of important legislation. Obama, clearly not in the mood for a fight, conceded to the GOP on extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, not just the middle class as he had promised. Conservatives again reveled at what they saw as a weakened president. But Obama came through on his promise to repeal the military's policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The Democrats also secured funding for 9/11 First Responders and completed the START Treaty.
The only pet project that failed to get adopted into law was the Dream Act, which would have provided children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. The debate over immigration was very contentious during 2010 since Arizona passed SB1070. Yet in a classic “turning lemons into lemonade” move, President Obama, during his final press conference of 2010, used the failure of the Dream Act to further drive a wedge between Conservatives and Hispanics.
The result? Conservative columnist Charles Krauthhammer labeled Obama the “Comeback Kid” and stated in his December 17, 2010 column “Obama is back.” Polls in early January seem to confirm this as the President's approval ratings started to climb.
Then came the Tragedy in Tucson. The President gave a well-received memorial speech, despite Conservative's claim that the event looked like a pep rally. The most recent polls show President Obama's approval rating at or above 50%.
Meanwhile, Conservatives are scrambling to take some of the wind out of Obama's sails. The first action of the newly Republican-controlled House was to pass H.R. 2, Repealing of the Job Killing Health Care Law Act. In the wake of Tucson, GOP lawmakers came under criticism for using the word “killing” in the title. Speaker of the House John Boehner quickly moved away from the word “killing” and replaced it with “crushing” and “destroying” when asked.
To further complicate matters, Conservatives seemed to be two-faced regarding the data concerning the repeal of the health care law coming from the Congressional Budget Office. For example, Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN) appeared with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on the Sean Hannity show. At one point Bachman questioned the validity and findings of the of the CBO report saying “that if it's garbage in, then it's garbage out.” Yet a few moments later in the exchange, she used a CBO report to qualify her argument.
More egg-on-the-face came when Conservatives claimed from the CBO report that 650,000 jobs would be lost due to the new health care law. The CBO has denied this claim.
The result for Conservatives? Their poll numbers are tumbling. A NBC/Wall St. Journal poll shows that Americans' view of the Republican Party is down and they believe the President is more willing to work with Republicans than the other way around. The feeling is also shared about mama grizzly Sarah Palin. Only 27% have a favorable view of the former governor and potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Even the Tea Party is falling from favor. These results are similar in a CBS/NY Times poll and an ABC News/Washington Post poll.
As the numbers fall, Conservatives seem to be in disarray as they watch Obama and Liberals runaway for another touchdown. While Liberals and Democrats are mounting a generally united front, Conservatives are squabbling over what direction to go with their new-found power.
In an article from the Associated Press, Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler said “The widely held sentiment among Tea Party Patriot members is that every item in the budget, including military spending and foreign aid, must be on the table,”
This counters a Republican Study Committee (RSC) report that announced its plan to cut $2.5 trillion off the debt over the next ten years. The plan made it clear that defense spending cuts were off the table.
Conservatives also appear divided over leadership of the movement. While Mitt Romney leads in polls of potential GOP 2012 presidential candidates, he lacks support from the far right. Those folks prefer seeing Sarah Palin as the GOP candidate despite the fact that she falls behind Romney in the polls and even further behind Obama in a chance to defeat him. Commentator George Will is among a growing chorus of Conservatives that feel Palin is not prepared for the office. Meanwhile the Tea Party is singing her praises.
More signs of division come from Michelle Bachman. The official Republican response to the President's State of the Union Address will be delivered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Bachman, who has been repeatedly snubbed by Boehner and the GOP leadership, will flex her Tea Party power and deliver her own response via online courtesy of the Tea Party Express. Both responses will air at the same time, each competing for viewers. It is unclear whether her response will compliment Ryan's or counter it.
One of the biggest issues causing Conservatives grief is the very same chant they have used over the past two years the will of the people. When President Obama first took office, the country was mired in a deep recession and high unemployment. Yet despite this, Obama put health care reform to the front of the priority line. Conservatives cried out “It's about jobs!” and the polls backed them up. Now Conservatives, eager to dismantle health care reform, are finding themselves on the wrong side of the “will of the people.” The polls listed above are still indicating that the top concern of Americans is unemployment. Falling a distant second and third is the debt and health care. This has led to some speculation that Conservatives have no plan in creating jobs. To further compound this belief, the House Republicans are pressing ahead with a bill to block all funding of abortion. Of the people polled, that issue doesn't even register.
If the Conservative Movement wants to succeed, it's time to realize that its members cannot merely sit on the sidelines and complain about the coach. No longer can they be the party of no. They are now on the playing field. The mandate of the midterm elections from the people wasn't about repealing heath care or furthering the debate on abortion. It was about jobs and working together to create them.Tweet