One of my favorite songs of all time is David Essex’s “Rock On.” Love it, and this weekend got a chance to sing it to the ladyfriend as we drove down the road. While it predates me by a few years, you should never be too young to appreciate a damn good song. One of the common lines in the song is “where do we go from here, which is a way that’s clear? Still lookin’ for that blue jean baby queen, prettiest girl I’ve ever seen…” I don’t know why, but it brought me to a thought of the Congressional Republicans. Truly, the next question for our caucus is “where do we go from here?”
To say that a budget needed passage is an understatement. The Congress had not passed one since the early days of the Obama Administration. Republicans in that time won back the House, but still didn’t have a real mission statement to our activities. Largely, we’re defined by the campaign cycle and the need to capitulate a base of primary voters that are far more “conservative” in nature than the “conservative” voters that cast a ballot in the general election. Truly, where do Republicans go from here? Where is the blue jean baby queen that represents a coherent and consistent message between the various factions of the party?
Erick Erickson isn’t exactly apoplectic over at RedState, but he demonstrates the very real feeling among movement conservatives that Congressional leadership is failing and (correctly) points out that House Republicans have to take ownership of the veteran benefits debacle that couldn’t get changed in the Senate. Nearly apoplectic, Boehner launched a tirade against the movement base that (somewhat correctly) painted their efforts as recruitment tactics rather than sound policy advocacy. It’s almost as if our blue jean baby queen is that gorgeous sorority girl to one and the rough country girl to the other. What Republicans, who control one half of one-third of the federal government, need is some consistency. I cannot expect that we’ll maintain a consistent voting record if we can’t even get a consistent voting paradigm.
The fact is our federal government has no legitimacy. Clearly, that’s not something the Obama Administration is really interested in, and by extension the Democratic left in either body. So, again…where do Republicans go from here? We need to win the next midterm election cycle and take back the Senate to have a stronger poker hand, but the conservative voters who cast a ballot in November alone aren’t activists by nature. They don’t think about a battle between “liberty” and “establishment” Republicans (as if there ever was one, really). That said, Republicans need the base to have any hope of winning in November when hours of phone banking and miles of neighborhood avenues require eager volunteers. To spend hours volunteering for cold pizza and warm beer means you believe in the cause. Republicans have not put themselves in a very comfortable corner here.
The budget deal sucks. Erickson and the movement right are correct in their criticisms about what it’s brought us to. However, Boehner’s right, too. I don’t see much in the way of real solutions coming from the movement right that we can get more moderate members, those occupying swing districts, and leadership to buy into. Frankly, Ted Cruz speaks to a base of folks that already love him. Getting people to say “yes” when they would otherwise say “no” is the real tricky part of governing; neither side seems to really understand that.
So where do we go from here? Well, I think a little willingness to admit mistakes would be the first step. Republican leadership needs to say “Alright, ya know what…we’ve really screwed up and let you down.” Movement Republicans need to admit they’ve been kinda douchey at times, too. That might be a good idea, at least one that gives us some ability to negotiate with our own caucus before we present a message to the American voter, especially the voter that casts a ballot in the fall instead of the spring. From there, we can sit down and develop a consistent improvement that meets everyone’s expectations on the budget, defense, civil rights, and most importantly Obamacare.
Essex’s line finishes up with “…see her shake on the movie screen…Jimmie Dean…” and then goes into this awesome instrumental with electric guitar, violins, horns…the whole shebang! I think the Republicans can find that same rhythm, but having it means having a band that can make good music together. We can know where to go from here. We can see the way that’s clear. We can score that blue jean baby queen. We just have to be willing to play in a band that let’s us all Rock On!