It's no surprise that congressional Democrats are in trouble this year. Historically, the president's party loses seats in mid-term elections. Throw in a stubbornly sluggish recovery to a very deep recession, high unemployment, President Obama's rapidly diminishing popularity and growing dissatisfaction with everything related to Washington, D.C., and you've got a recipe for a very bad November for Democrats.
What's inexplicable is that it could possibly be a good year for Republicans.
Actually, it isn't inexplicable. It's an inevitable outcome of the United States' completely dysfunctional two-party system.
One party's misfortune necessarily means the other party's fortune. What other choice is there for Americans tired of the party in charge?
Still, other than not being Democrats, Republicans are bringing precious little to the table this year in terms of an actual agenda to sell themselves to voters.
There's no Contract for America spelling out what the GOP hopes to accomplish if it retakes Congress. No, as far as Republicans are concerned, November should be a referendum on Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
And that's fine, but don't voters have a right to know what Republicans might actually want to accomplish -- beyond, of course, empty promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the recently passed Wall Street reform?
Well, according to Republican leaders, no. No, they don't.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, ROhio, sat down with Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, who asked what voters could expect if Republicans took back Congress. Boehner promised budget cuts but offered no specifics about what Republicans would cut. He promised entitlements would be reformed but did not say how. Balz asked if Republicans would push to privatize Social Security again, and Boehner replied, "I have no idea."
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., had this to say about the elusive Republican agenda: "I don't think we have to lay out a complete agenda -- from top to bottom -- because then we would have the national mainstream media jumping on every point trying to make that a campaign issue."
Certainly having your party's agenda become a campaign issue could be problematic, especially if your agenda appears to be a return to the thoroughly rejected policies of the past that most Americans believe are responsible for the nation's current economic predicament.
From all indications that Republicans have let slip, that, astoundingly enough, appears to be the plan: The GOP wants to reinstate the Bush agenda.
On a recent broadcast of "Meet the Press," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jon Cornyn were asked to name a difference between Republicans' current agenda and the Bush agenda.
Sessions said, "We need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminishing it." Because that worked out so well the first time?
Let's take a look at the Bush agenda and how it compares to what Republicans are pushing now:
Budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthy? Check. Republicans say they want to extend the Bush tax breaks into the next decade, despite having no intention of paying for the nearly $700 billion price tag for keeping the tax breaks for the richest Americans.
Minimal regulation of industry and commerce? Check. In fact, Boehner called for a one-year moratorium on any new federal regulations.
And, well, that's about it. The Republican agenda can be summed up as tax cuts, deregulation and a vague promise to be more fiscally responsible -- a promise Republicans utterly failed to keep last time America trusted them with power.
Certainly Americans do not have such short memories. They must recognize that the last time we tried this strategy the nation's economy nearly collapsed.
But the recovery from that near-collapse is slow. Americans, as usual, seem ready to take out their frustration over a poor economy on the party in power leaving the only choice to reward the other major party -- even though a recent Bloomberg National Poll found that voters believe President Bush's policies are more to blame for that poor economy than Obama's.
In a rational world, voters would never hand back the reins of power to a party that wants to return to failed policies.
Then again, in a rational world, there might be more than two real choices.
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