November 12, 2014

THROWDOWN THURSDAY: The Republican Moment

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By JULIUS KAIREY

The Democratic Party is in political retreat. Democrats not only lost the Senate last Tuesday, but had their membership in the House of Representatives brought to new lows. Republicans are expected to hold more seats in the next Congress than at any time since 1930. Democrats were uncompetitive across most of rural America and the southern United States, while Republicans won governor races in the bluest of blue states like Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton’s last-minute campaigning could not save Bruce Braley from a resounding defeat in Iowa, a state President Barack Obama won both times. And those Democratic politicians — like Mark Pryor of Arkansas — who kept their distance from the President experienced the same sad fate as many of their fellow Democrats. Republicans now have total control of the governments of nearly half the states, defined as controlling both houses of the state legislature and the governorship.

Even in liberal Ithaca — where voting Democratic is often considered an exercise in moderation — strong support for Martha Robertson ’75 could not prevent a crushing 25-point victory for incumbent Republican Tom Reed in New York’s 23rd Congressional district. The Republican win across the country was broad-based: Republicans won nearly half of women voters, along with more than one-third of Latinos. The so-called “party of the rich” received tens of millions of votes from Americans across a wide demographic spectrum.

The elections represent a stark repudiation of President Obama’s leadership. At home, too many continue to suffer from anemic economic growth. Those under the age of 30 are graduating from college with degrees that saddle them with debt, but prove worthless when finding a job. The future of America’s healthcare system faces further uncertainty in light of the failed rollout of Obamacare and the now infamous “if you like your health care you can keep it” promise. Americans are waking up to the realization that our immigration policy — as fragmented and incoherent as it is — fails to incentivize lawful immigration over unlawful immigration. President Obama’s hints at the possibility of a more comprehensive amnesty have encouraged tens of thousands to flock to our border. The federal government is failing to control who comes to the county, and the man responsible for securing the nation’s borders seems indifferent.

Overseas, much of the world has taken note of the absence of American leadership. Radical Islamists sense a power vacuum and are on the march. ISIS has captured vast swaths of territory that America struggled to secure, virtually ensuring that Iraq and Syria will remain failed states for the indefinite future. America and our western allies have watched thousands of our own citizens join ISIS, with a few even beheading western journalists on camera. Israel fought its war against Hamas terrorists this summer with insufficient support from President Obama, who continuously pushed ceasefire proposals that would have prevented Israel from destroying the terror tunnels and protecting its citizens from rocket fire. Russia feels no check on further expansion into Eastern Europe, and Iran marches on to acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The President must be living in a different world. While the nation looks to the President for leadership, he comes off as uncomprehending of the magnitude of the threat posed by America’s enemies. Addressing the United Nations, he compared the war and instability raging across the globe to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

While Americans call for a change, too many Democrats seem unwilling to acknowledge that last Tuesday’s election mattered. A chorus of left-wing commentators are grasping for every explanation of last Tuesday’s result except that the election said anything about the popularity of liberal policies.

It is time for Republicans to seize the political mandate given to them by this election, and, in so doing, prove these commentators wrong. Americans want the country on a different track, and Republicans must prove that a better path is possible. This means taking control of the agenda. Approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been needlessly delayed by this administration, should be a priority. Moderate Democrats in the Senate would almost certainly break against their party in a vote on this issue, politically isolating the President from a bipartisan majority in Congress.

Simultaneously, Republicans should start chipping away at Obamacare through a piece-by-piece approach. Congress should repeal the individual mandate, employer mandate and medical device tax in separate pieces of legislation. If the President decides to veto, so be it. He and his party will suffer the political consequences.

On immigration, Republicans must put forward a sensible proposal that focuses on securing America’s porous border. We cannot address the issue of what to do with illegal immigrants in the United States until we stem the tide of people coming here unlawfully. Having a new amnesty every couple of decades is not an immigration policy; it continues to reward people who break the law while ducking the difficult policy questions.

For Republicans, the work of putting the country back on track and challenging the President’s agenda starts now. Republicans must show the country that they can govern in the nation’s best interest to improve the party brand at a time where Democratic Party favorability is at a record low. If they can set up a strong contrast with the President and his party in both ideological outlook and policy preferences, they can break their Presidential losing streak come 2016 while doing a lot of good for the country.

Julius Kairey is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at jkairey@cornellsun.com. Always Right appears alternate Thursdays this semester.