Alex's italics. His next graf slams the point home:
Messaging matters in politics, but so does timing. Suppose the Republican leadership had worked with the White House this past year to craft a health care bill that, though opposed by both the purer elements of both right and left, could pass the House and Senate; suppose too that this bill actually worked. Who gets the credit for that? Not the Republican party or Republican candidates across the country, that's who. No, it would be the President's triumph and his alone. (I'm assuming, for the sake of this argument that the bill would have covered 30m Americans, controlled or lowered costs etc.) It's Obama who would have reaped the electoral rewards from this process. So what, rationally, does it profit the Republican party to help him achieve that aim?
You might argue that this is a form of political nihilism or that it's putting party before the national interest and you might well have a point. But the country is, much of the time, a secondary concern. Parties exist to win elections and then - and only then - take measures they believe are in the national interest. Helping the other mob win isn't part of their brief.
But that only works until the mid-terms. After that, as Reihan [Salam] says, you gotta pivot. Scorched-earth is a temporary policy forced upon you by unfavourable circumstances and your own need to retreat and regroup. It can buy time and weaken the enemy before the counter-attack but it's not, and cannot be, the counter-attack itself. It's tactics, not strategy.
Well, this is American Republicanism in a nutshell. If you're in power, deny the opposition all access to power. If you're out of power, deny the majority any opportunity to wield their power until you can get power back again.
I'm not exempting the Democrats from this criticism, by the way. In some respects, they are just as bad. But if the last two Democratic presidents are any example, the Democrats are the party of inclusion, having included Republicans in key cabinet positions (Bill Cohen and Bob Gates in Defense). The Bush administration, meanwhile, had a policy of hiring U.S. Attorneys who would serve the political interests of the president, and nary a Democrat in sight in the cabinet. Massie's piece brings Republican nihilism into light. First, win; then, serve the national interest (so long as Republican donors are not harmed).
Imagine if this way of thinking were extended to other areas:
- Medicine -- First, don't get sued; then, do no harm.
- Clergy -- First, increase tithing; then, serve God
- Comedy -- First, get a sitcom/talk show; then, make people laugh