In the Wilderness

This article is a few days old (which is ancient in new media terms) but it still gives an important insight into the challenge facing Congressional Republicans: Pleasing grassroots activists while winning back the suburban moderates that fueled wins in 2000 and 2004 but abandoned the party after 2005. From the WSJ:

The November elections were widely seen as a rebuke to Republicans, and Mr. Obama has claimed the economic crisis as a mandate for action, leaving Messrs. Boehner and McConnell groping for the right blend of cooperation and defiance.

Republicans can’t simply be “the party of ‘no,’ ” Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, said in an interview this month, but must offer solutions to voters’ problems. “We have to give the American people reasons to take a look at us,” he said. Tuesday, Mr. Boehner issued a statement congratulating Mr. Obama on his inauguration, vowing to find “common ground with the President on solutions to rebuild our economy, strengthen American families, and keep our country safe.”

Similarly positioned opposition parties have taken various paths. In 1993, Republicans fought Bill Clinton on almost everything. Eight years later, many Democrats cooperated with George W. Bush on certain items, such as tax cuts and education overhaul.

With likely minorities of 41-59 in the Senate and 178-257 in the House, Republicans — who just four years ago seemed on the cusp of long-term dominance — have less leverage than any minority in recent memory.

“I think it’s important not to be in a hurry,” Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, said in an interview in his office in the U.S. Capitol last week. “The new president has high approval ratings. Polls indicate that both Republicans and Democrats want him to be successful. We want to be a respectful, loyal opposition.”

The opening of the article best summed up the dueling faces of the party as it stands:

House Minority Leader John Boehner recently attacked the potential “wasteful spending” and “mountains of debt” in President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. A few days later, he warmly invited Mr. Obama to address House Republicans, saying, “We do not want partisan differences to stall achievement.”

Yesterday the party won a major victory (at least internally) by unanimously opposing the House Stimulus package. They also managed to offer an alternative proposal which, while imperfect and somewhat slapped together, was still an alternative. Can they keep this up?

We’re in the wilderness. Now all we need is a leader. Will it be from Congress?

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