If I were tasked with crafting the Republican Party’s legislative strategy in the wake of President Obama’s jobs speech, here’s what I would suggest: Instead of mindless opposition to the president’s proposal, craft a small-bore plan and pass it as the American Jobs Act. When this neutered bill fails to produce the benefits promised by Obama, attack him as hapless and ineffectual. It’s foolproof!
That is, unless your party is dominated by lawmakers and activists with a categorical opposition to anything that looks like compromise, even if it yields political advantage. Here’s Politico with an inside look at the GOP’s response to President Obama’s jobs pitch:
“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely.
Republicans are committed to winning the presidency in 2012, and as a result, they are uninterested in any legislation that might give the president a “victory,” even if it could put them on stronger strategic footing. Matthew Yglesias gives a good explanation of the dynamic: “In a paradigm where the passage of major legislation counts as a “win” for President Obama then anyone who wants to see President Obama go down to defeat, then no major legislation can pass on a bipartisan basis.”
Other than complete cooperation, this is probably the reaction the White House was hoping for -- politically, it’s good for the administration if Republicans appear cynical and vindictive. It feeds into Obama’s narrative of a country marred by broken politics and allows him to present the GOP as the main impediment to economic recovery.
Voters don’t decide on the basis of narratives, but neither are they pure creatures of political science -- if Obama can convince voters that Republicans bear the most responsibility for our economic morass (which happens to be true), then he might enter 2012 in a much stronger position than he looks.