MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was on Meet The Press today where she pointed out that the Republican Party is asking voters to make a fatally flawed choice in November, if they insist on portraying themselves as the fiscally responsible party. Maddow said, “If Republicans want to run as this fiscally responsible party, it’s neat, but it’s novel. It’s not how they’ve actually governed.”
Here is the video:
When asked about the 2010 election, Maddow discussed the two different frames each party is presenting to voters in November, “Well, sure. And what the Republicans are trying to do is trying to make this a referendum on the, on the Democrats and on President Obama, on Harry Reid, on the people in power. And what Democrats are trying to do is make this a choice.”
She then added why Democrats are facing a tough climb this fall, “Obviously, anybody who’s unhappy about anything in the country, you would hope they would turn it into a vote against the party in power. The Democrats have their work cut out for them. Just keep talking about John Boehner, keep talking about Sharron Angle, not just as the absence of Harry Reid, but as somebody who has a lot of very interesting policy positions of her own.”
Later Maddow explained why the concept of the GOP as fiscally responsible is not based in reality, “Well, you end, you end up with the situation which again you’re back to choice vs. referendum because Republicans, like great strategists like Mr. Gillespie, can argue about how it’s all about spending, it’s all about debt. But it’s not just talking about the past to say, “When Republicans have had the reins, this is what they’ve done: two wars not paid for, prescription drug benefit not paid for, two tax cuts that mostly benefited the rich not paid for. They put all that stuff on the deficit, $1.3 trillion sitting there as–in a deficit when Obama took over, after the previous Democratic president had handed him a surplus. If you talk about–if Republicans want to run as this fiscally responsible party, it’s neat, but it’s novel. It’s not how they’ve actually governed.”
Maddow is correct on two counts. First, one of the things that we have already seen in 2010 is that when elections are localized such as the special election in PA to fill John Murtha’s seat, Democrats do well. When the choice is between the two candidates in any given race, the Democrats more than hold their own. This is why Republicans are desperate to make 2010 a national referendum on Obama. The GOP still hasn’t broken out of their Contract With America model for congressional electioneering. They are walking down a foolish path if they see victories like Scott Brown’s in a national context, when Brown won because he localized the race and took federal politics out of it.
The harsh reality is that the Republican Party is still in decline. The byproduct of forcing all the moderates and reasonable people out of their party is that they are left with an atrocious crop of candidates to run in 2010. The GOP has to nationalize this election, because they do not want the Rand Paul’s and Sharron Angle’s judged on their own merits.
The second point that Maddow nailed is this recasting of the GOP as the party of fiscal responsibility. The Republicans have not balanced a federal budget since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 and 1957. (The other two presidents who accomplished this in the modern era were Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton). The patron saint of talking tough on the budget while spending money like it is going out of style was Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush followed up by taking Republican fiscal debauchery to a whole new level.
The truth is that Republicans are selling voters a false choice and a bill of goods. History tells us that Republicans cannot and will not control their spending, so the idea that they are the party who can cut America’s debt is a sick sad joke, and Democratic candidates all across this country should not let a day go by without reminding voters of the Republicans long and inglorious history of spending money that the nation does not have. The GOP’s best hope is that voters are too angry to notice just how bad they are with our money.