Springtime in the Imperial City: Politics never sleeps

(Washington, D.C) For a devotee of history there are few more relaxing experiences than a mid-afternoon reverie in the Round Robin Bar at the Willard hotel. While awaiting a colleague who has promised much good gossip about bad politics in the Imperial City, my imagination goes to an upstairs room where Pinkerton detectives fearful of cascading assassination threats secretly conveyed president Elect Abraham Lincoln to wait out the final week before his inauguration in 1861. Or to the nearby hotel lobby where in more placid times President Ulysses Grant liked to stop and smoke a cigar and sip a glass of whiskey while patiently fending off job-seekers and other supplicants (The hotel dubiously claims this to be the origin of the term “Lobbyist”).

While normal people prefer to discuss the weather- the end of the brutal winter and the euphoria-inducing arrival of the cherry blossoms in the Tidal Basin- a large proportion of this city’s denizens have real interest in only one topic: Politics. With mid-term elections just six months away veteran “political junkies” examine virtually every factoid of public life through the lens of one question:” How will this play in November “?

The last seven months have seen an extraordinary renaissance in the fortunes of the Republican Party. As recently as the beginning of last October in the wake of the public relations disaster that was the Republican sponsored government “shutdown” pundits and gleeful Democrats were predicting that a fractious GOP in thrall to Tea Party fanatics like Ted Cruz would soon be little more than a rump group of elderly Southern white men. Then miraculously the GOP was rescued by –wait for it- the Democratic Party which rolled out the crowning glory of liberal “social engineering”- Obamacare- in a manner that would turn American politics upside down.

Suddenly the plausible scenario of restoring Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House thus allowing Obama to triumphantly legislate the full Progressive agenda in his final two years disappeared. Instead Obamacare became a political wrecking ball that looks likely to expand the GOP House majority and even deliver the Senate into Republican control.

In the same time period Democratic political woes have been compounded by the collapse of Obama’s foreign policy. Every naïve initiative from the “apology tour”, to the Russian “reset”, to the “Pivot to Asia” has collided with cruel realities that have exposed American weakness and diplomatic incompetence.

What plagues Democrats most is that their self-inflicted wounds just won’t stop bleeding. Obamacare has become an unending series of embarrassing revelations and on the international front hardly a week goes by without some obnoxious foreigner thumbing their nose at the USA.

As revealed by every poll the Democratic party is paying a fearful price for these serial misadventures. Not only are Obama’s Approval ratings at an all-time low, but more ominously a majority of the electorate now view him as “untrustworthy”, clearly the legacy of his infamous and oft repeated deceit “If you like your doctor/plan you can keep him/it. Period.”

Indicative of this fall from grace is that the heretofore loyal mainstream media is beginning to waver in its allegiance to Obama. Jay Carney is no longer completely safe in the White House Press Room and even liberal pundits are writing columns with scary phrases like “Even Jimmy Carter never…”

As for Republicans they are prospering by following a policy once described by the 19th century British statesman Lord Salisbury as “Masterful Inactivity”. They can’t be blamed for Obamacare because not a single one of them voted for it. They can’t be blamed for foreign policy failures because that area is owned by the Executive Branch. They can however vociferously criticize all of the above while artfully suggesting that everything would be much better if only they were in charge.

Historically American voters attain greater clarity and focus regarding things and people they are against. “We’re fed up” or “Throw the bums out” are familiar catch phrases from past elections.

The GOP is betting that the things the American people are currently fed up with- both domestic and foreign dysfunctions- are principally attributable to the Democratic Party, and therefore it will be that party that will pay for its’ follies in November.
Though much can happen between now and November and Republicans do have a rare capacity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, present indications and past history suggest the GOP has made a winning bet.

William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events

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