As members of the Republican Party reflect on their losses at the polls November 6, they should do so with complete honesty and a commitment to play a constructive role in effective governance. Their first step should be to get their house in order.
The Republican Party under Reince Priebus was a failure. His leadership during this past election was characterized by distortion and deception. His incessant reliance on talking points and mean-spirited attacks did not elevate the debate nor inspire his troops. Not only did he miscalculate how Mitt Romney would do Election Day, Romney failed to carry Priebus's home state of Wisconsin.
Supporters credit him with cutting the RNC's debt in half, and increasing the party's donor base. Priebus sent an email to committee members notifying them he intends to run again in January, but barely mentioned Romney's defeat and the loss of Senate seats. Instead, he praised the RNC's get out the vote effort, even though Romney received fewer votes than Senator John McCain did four years earlier.
Preibus has not owned up to his role in voter suppression, an effort that backfired. This tactic was based on the old axiom that if the voter turnout is large the Democrats win. There were also allegations of voter registration fraud involving Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm the RNC retained for $1.3 million before being forced to terminate the contract. At the time, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said, "It's not hard to connect the dots here -- each of these cases is directly connected to Chair Reince Priebus, who as Chair of the RNC hired the firm headed by Nathan Sproul, a longtime Republican consultant with a known history of alleged voter registration fraud."
Senate Republicans should replace their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He has consistently put partisan politics ahead of working on a bipartisan basis with President Barack Obama. Prior to the 2010-midterm elections, Senator McConnell famously threw down the gauntlet. In an interview with the National Journal, the senator said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." If Congress actually accomplished something, he reasoned, it would make the president look good.
Republicans became the party of roadblocks. Republicans have had effective control of the Senate since the beginning of President Obama's first term. While they did not have a majority in the Senate, they had enough seats to keep Democrats from getting the required 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. And under Senator McConnell's leadership Republicans shattered all previous records for using filibusters. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's combined." In the election earlier this month Republicans lost seats to the Democrats, although not enough to end a filibuster by that party.
A mandate is in the eye of the beholder. Democrats say the election gave the president a mandate, especially for raising taxes on the rich, while Republicans disagree. No matter, Americans voted for a divided government, where Democrats control the White House and the Senate, and Republicans control the House of Representatives. It was as if the voters were saying, "Alright guys, enough with the gridlock, get back in there and get something done."
Meanwhile, government is on the edge of a fiscal cliff, which Congress created. If no action is taken by the end of the year automatic spending reductions will kick in and all of the Bush tax cuts will expire. That will mean the tax bill for the average household will increase by several thousand dollars, which will snuff out America's already anemic economic recovery.
So the second thing Republicans should do is to take the high ground in the debate on the impending fiscal crisis. They should agree to the president's proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, while putting in place some tax reforms. Republicans should show they are willing to compromise for the good of the country. To do otherwise would garner blame for a Republican party that is already flat on its back from a staggering defeat on election day.
It is time for the Republican Party to end its failed era of obstructionism. Elections do have consequences.