The Republicans are Bad at Politics

Hat-tip to Amanda: Ted Kennedy is berating the Republicans in the Senate for threatening to filibuster the minimum wage increase. Kennedy went as far as calling the Republicans greedy and unloading years of emotions about the minimum wage.

“Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?”

The Republicans were supposed to be the party that knows all about politics, and is only weak when it comes to governing. For years, Democrats lamented how Karl Rove was a marketing genius and how for decades the Republicans had run brilliant branding campaigns.

Somehow, these marketing geniuses decided it would be a good idea to filibuster a bill that 83% of Americans support and 68% consider a top priority. The Senate election campaign ads for 2008 practically write themselves. “68% of Americans say they consider raising the minimum wage a top priority. In 2006, the American people elected Democrats to Congress to raise the minimum wage to $7.25. So why did Senator ____ filibuster the bill?”

The minimum wage isn’t an especially important issue. Most low-income workers make more than $7.25/hour. What keeps them in poverty is chronic unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment insurance and retraining programs are far more useful and far more costly, even if you consider the minimum wage an unfunded mandate whose true cost is this of a government supplement of everyone’s wage to $7.25/hour.

If you’re a Democrat, the above calculus is irrelevant. The minimum wage does more good than harm. That 83% of the people want that only means that a raise does not cost any political capital. But if you’re a Republican, yielding on the minimum wage is nothing compared to what you can block if you take back the Senate in 2008 or at least don’t let the Democrats increase their margin.

The above map is the incumbents heading into the 2008 Senate elections. The Republicans are defending 21 seats to the Democrats’ 12. Colorado is pink because its Senator, Wayne Allard, is retiring. In many states, such as Minnesota and New Hampshire, the Republican Party collapsed in 2006 amidst opposition to Bush.

If the Democrats can remind everyone that Senate Republicans are killing bills virtually everyone in the US supports, they can trigger a few more collapses, and flip several more seats. This is especially true if the Republican Presidential candidate is a Senator who supports the filibuster. Giuliani or Romney could probably make the minimum wage less important by coming out in favor of it, but McCain would be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Barry Goldwater.

5 Responses to The Republicans are Bad at Politics

  1. Mark Foxwell says:

    Alon, I’m not sure what degree of hostility and contempt if any your “NKVD” response to my remarks on the Pandagon thread you reference expressed. But friend or foe, I want to thank you for producing this map. I’m looking at it in terms of a possible Presidential/VP impeachment trial in the Senate prior to Nov 2008.

    That won’t happen in the current state of evidence. To my mind, there are plenty grounds to impeach Bush & Cheney simultaneously based on evidence already in the public record–just the deceptions put forward to get support for the invasion of Iraq ought to do it. If our politicians were statespersons, that is. But since they are not, and since the Republicans would hate like poison for Nancy Pelosi to enter the Oval Office, it is going to take much bigger smoking guns to convice 16 or more Republican Senators to vote to convict those two.

    The Republicans up for re-election the soonest would, according to conventional wisdom, be the ones most likely to be persuaded to flip, in the face of convincing, irrefutable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors even Republican constituencies consider damning. I actually think you need way more, because I suppose at least a few Democrats will be pressured by the Admin to flip the other way, so only if there were good reason to think at least 20 Republican Senators would vote for conviction would it be feasible for Democrats to impeach the President.

    It boggles my mind that exactly that many R’s have their heads on the chopping block in 2008! Unfortunately, I doubt that even a third of them can be expected to vote for conviction no matter what outrageous offenses might be exposed in the upcoming year. I believe some of these people would defend Bush, or at least Cheney, if the pair of them machine-gunned a troop of Brownies from Kansas bearing flags and anti-abortion banners at high noon on a Monday on the White House lawn. (They’d probably demand that any surviving girls apologize for provoking their Leader.) I’d have expected Norm Coleman of Minnesota to be in that category, for instance, though I hear he has joined up with the R Senators who are criticizing the war plans of the Admin. I still expect Chambliss of Georgia to be such a die-hard.

    I’d think any Republican from Washington would want to mind his P’s and Q’s around liberals if they hope to be re-elected. And the two women Senators from Maine have both earned quite a reputation for being an older-fashioned kind of Republican than the 1990s-2000s vintage fanatics; I’d expect even the one who is not up for re-election to listen to a really compelling case.

    Beyond that though, I wonder whether anything would shift any of the others. A number of them–Brownback of Kansas, for instance–have been voicing opposition to the war plans too.

    But I suspect that if it ever came to such a situation–major new evidence that damns the Administration overwhelmingly in public opinion–that instead of agreeing to vote for convictions in an impeachment trial, that they’d all form a delegation to the White House demanding that Bush and Cheney resign. It would go like this–Cheney quits first for reasons of health, and Bush pardons him of all wrongdoing for all time. Then Bush nominates some Republican to be the next Gerald Ford, the Republicans make it clear to the Dems this is a done deal (or they got agreement in advance) and so the Senate approves whoever that is. Then Bush resigns and the new Republican President pardons him pre-emptively as well.

    Then the R’s say we need to get over everything that has happened so far this entire decade.

    I’m going to guess you think impeachment or the above scenario is out of the question, and agree that if Bush is still President in Nov 2008, that a lot of these Rs would be out. I will be especially glad to see Coleman and/or Chambliss get the ax, as I don’t believe either of them would have won in 2002 without the sort of outrageous misdeeds that Congress should be impeaching the President over. Like political assassination, or outright vote stealing. And up until now, with Coleman suddenly wavering on the foreign policy line, they’ve repaid the suspected favors to the Admin obsequiously.

  2. SLC says:

    Somewhat off the subject, but perhaps apropo, Senator Hegel of Nebraska is thinking about a presidential run. As the only Rethuglican uknderg discussion in the media who is not supporting the current situation in Iraq and as someone who is not intimately connected to the born-agains, he might be their strongest candidate. He’s a Vietnam veteran who has publicly stated that the Vietnam war was a mistake, undertaken for dubious purposes. He has a very conservative voting record but it’s not clear how much of it reflects his personal philosophy and how much of it reflects the very conservative state (Nebraska) that he represents (the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, Ben Nelson, also represents Nebraska). I have heard him give several interviews and he appears both bright and articulate, probably a dangerous opponent in debate. He doesn’t appear to carry the baggage that McCain and Giuliani carry and is probably conservative enought to attract a significant born-again vote away from Brownback.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    It might boil down to immigration at the end. Brownback is pro-immigration, like Bush, so he’ll have real trouble getting the racist vote. Giuliani is pro-immigration as well, but he has strong racist credentials from his tenure as Mayor of NYC; it’s just that his racism is the older, anti-black kind, rather than the newer, anti-Hispanic kind.

  4. Mark Foxwell says:

    So if new evidence favoring impeachment turns up, and the scenario I suggested plays out, and (big if) the decision about _who_ Bush can appoint to replace Cheney and become the new Republican President is made by Republicans with more of an eye toward redeeming their party’s reputation than toward asserting ideological purity (and, oh yeah, nominating a person with enough smarts and integrity to actually run the country)–they could make it Hagel. He wouldn’t please the R base but by that same token he would be less unpleasing to the skeptical majority.

    I have a grudge against Hagel because he was first elected Senator right after his own company got the contract for one of the first electronic “election management” systems, back in 1996. And his victory in the general election, as I understand it, was a startling upset, and the presumable rise in public support for him had gone unnoticed, apparently, before the surprising results of the election.

    OTOH he may now have the sense that he might have created a Frankenstein’s Monster and want to do something about it…

    A Republican is a Republican is a Republican. I can list a few Rs who have shown initiative and vision on a few issues of policy, but even the best of them will in the end do everything they can to help even the very worst. And the average is very low.

    But maybe Hagel is the best of the bad lot.

  5. Hello,

    Congressman Ron Paul, a man who truly believes in freedom, is running for the Republican nomination for president. I’m working to gather support so Congressman Paul will become a candidate.

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