It’s not easy to be a Senate Republican these days. The media is acting like an arm of the Obama campaign, the GOP is distracted by infighting, and Republicans have gone from having a comfortable majority in the Senate to being an endangered minority in the space of just two elections.
When everything seems to be falling apart it can be very tempting to point the finger elsewhere. If the GOP isn’t doing well, it must be George Bush, the House Republicans, John McCain running a poor campaign, the economy, the war in Iraq, bad luck — anything other than the Senate’s performance.
If you do believe that, it would probably be very easy to simply stand pat, expect Americans to get sick and tired of the Democrats in the next two years, and hope that things start going back in the right direction in 2010.
While it’s entirely possible that strategy could work, it could also turn out to be much riskier than you think. In 2010 the GOP will have to defend 19 seats while the Democrats only have to protect 15. Furthermore, there’s always a chance that the Dems could run stronger than we might expect in the next election. Whatever happens, you can certainly count on Barack’s pals in the mainstream media to blame the GOP for “obstructing” Barack Obama’s agenda and to campaign tirelessly to try to put more Democrats in office.
Since that’s the case, in 2010 you’re going to need the help of talk radio, the blogosphere, conservative activists, and an energized base that wants to vote for you, not just against the Democrats.
Unfortunately, that’s not what you have today. To the contrary, fairly or unfairly, amongst the members of the new media and conservative activists that I’ve come into contact with of late, the opinion of Republican senators could not be much lower.
They look at GOP senators as out of touch, unreliable, big government, pro-illegal immigration, servants of special interest groups who are more interested in keeping their jobs than serving the people who sent them to Washington in the first place — and remember, the people we’re talking about are typically the biggest defenders of all things Republican.
If you don’t buy that, check around with some of the outside-the-Beltway pundits, bloggers, and radio hosts that you know. My guess is that if you ask them to be honest with you, they’ll tell you exactly the same thing you just read in this column.
The reason this needs to be brought up is that very soon, you’re going to have your first opportunity to send a message to the people who are deeply disillusioned with you. That message will be sent by whom you choose to be your next Senate Minority Leader.
In 2006 you settled on Mitch McConnell as your leader and quite frankly, the Republicans in the Senate and across the country have very little to show for that decision. We’re down six seats in the Senate — and they’re still counting. Moreover, Mitch McConnell, who supported the Bridge to Nowhere twice, who led you into a disastrous fight on illegal immigration, and who did little to strike back against the Democrats who were slandering the GOP on an almost daily basis, actually campaigned on bringing home pork to Kentucky.
Let me be perfectly honest: if the GOP is going to run on bigger government and softening up on illegal immigration, we’re not going to make any major gains in 2010. On the other hand, if the GOP does want to convince the country and the base that it’s listening and making changes, putting the same failed leader back in charge isn’t a good way to do it. Hopefully, there are some Republican senators who agree with that sentiment and will be willing to stand up and do something about it while there is still time.