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The GOP plays the austerity card

Ralph Nader claims in The Nation that “the Republicans are openly introspective about why they failed to regain the presidency and the Senate.” Given Paul Ryan’s latest budget proposal, self-reflection appears more PR hype than reality.

The GOP lost in November because they were out-hustled on the ground and because they have become the party of lowered expectations. They also lost the battle of demographics - the Latino, women, youth and gay vote.

Their “introspection” doesn’t include reconsidering how their clichéd ideas about big government and “no new taxes” plays to a demographic of a more diverse America. And the GOP has yet to show it can relate to the plight of a diminished middle class.

Ryan’s 3.0 budget is a meaner version of his past two budgets (more tax breaks for the rich) while putting the fork into Obamacare and ending Social Security and Medicare as we know it.

Ryan’s “Scroogish” budget will sail through the Tea Party-smitten House, but it will be DOA in the Senate. While it’s not a viable attempt to find common ground with President Obama, it is a well-timed launching pad for Ryan’s 2016 campaign.

For Ryan, it’s recycled politics, all the time.

The public wants both parties to arrive at common ground, but there is scant evidence of movement in this direction.

While Oregon’s delegation has a history of working across party lines (Hatfield/AuCoin, Wyden/Smith Walden/DeFazio) nothing like that is evident in the D.C. beltway. Don’t expect Oregon’s “can do” spirit to move the boys and girls on the Hill.

What’s hard to fathom is why the GOP elite insist on working from a bankrupt script. Their “austerity” plan for America in the 2012 campaign lost big time. Yet thanks to Ryan, they are defaulting to this tired game of playing to their right-wing base.

As Paul Krugman noted in a recent column, there “is no need for America’s long-run fiscal concerns to drive its budget policy today …” The economics of austerity make no sense. Neither do the politics of austerity. But that won’t stop the anti-government zealots in the Republican Party.

There is something profoundly irrational about the GOP. Despite four years of trying to make Obama a “failed” president, their mission imploded. One definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake again and again! To steal a line from the Gipper, “There they go again.”

Why can’t the GOP learn from its mistakes?

If one takes a cue from Oregon’s annual GOP confab on the coast at Dorchester, the assembled neo-cons in attendance felt all they needed to win again is to update their campaign technology. Putting lipstick on their iconic elephant doesn’t alter the fact that the Grand Old Party is out of touch with America.

Team Obama outflanked team Romney on organization, voter-turnout and demographics. And Obama had enough coattails in Oregon to help the Dems take the state House and hold the Senate. New technology without a winning message is like the Quack Attack with just the swoosh.

But don’t conclude that the GOP suffers from a low political IQ. GOP hit men like Karl Rove aren’t dumb, but they are cynical to the core. They are betting that in 2014, with low voter turnout, they can win again as they did in 1994 and 2010. And if team Obama can’t up the numbers in 2014, this cynical calculation might be right.

A victory in 2014 will set them up to take back the U.S. Senate and win the Oval Office in 2016. But in the meantime, the name of the game is stalemate. The question is whether the American voter is that cynical and gullible? (Hey, Bush II was elected twice, by a judicial TKO and 9/11. Time will tell.)

But back to the present. The party of austerity in Europe has run those economies into the ground and is hampering our own recovery. So while the politics of austerity may sell to the right, the record stinks. While Europeans have mistaken horse for beef, the GOP line has devolved into “let them eat skunk.”

Russ Dondero is professor emeritus, Department of Politics and Government, Pacific University. Read his blog at russdondero.squarespace.com.




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