It didn’t take long for the ruling class to push back. Three days after the voters rebuffed administration policies that President Obama had insisted were on the ballot, the Capital City’s practitioners of the political dark arts were back at their trade.
On the editorial pages of last Friday’s Washington Post, they chanted their old familiar magic formula for breaking “gridlock:” the 114th Congress should give the just-repudiated president exactly what he wants.
It started with liberal and libertarian pundits — so similar in so many ways, including their distain for “mere” nationalism and patriotism — conjuring up more globalization hocus pocus with the magic words “free trade” and “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Dismissing voter sentiments with the arrogant headline, “Speeding up a trade deal,” the Post’s lead editorial expressed the newspaper’s hope for its version of “bipartisanship:” unconstitutionally delegating “fast-track” authority to the president to negotiate the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The editors failed to mention that the administration has already negotiated the 29-chapter, all-encompassing treaty behind closed doors without congressional input. Or how the globalist legerdemain — a super-sized NAFTA — would override established U.S. policy on immigration, employment, procurement, energy, patents and copyrights, food and consumer-product safety, and financial oversight to the whims and imaginations of second- and third-tier Third World countries.
Is this economic alchemy what the anxious voters ordered up on Election Day?
If that weren’t enough, the newspaper showcased the inventions of Ari Fleischer, one of the oracles of the Republican National Committee’s self-conducted “autopsy” of 2013. That revisionist reverie blamed the Romney defeat on everything but the party’s willingness to carry water for Wall Street. And the former White House press secretary’s latest divination was hardly more inspired: Republicans should respond to the electorate’s right turn by checking off all the politically correct boxes, from gay rights to immigration reform, to become more “open and inclusive.”
Fleischer, an apprentice to Karl Rove, imagines that George W. Bush’s squeaker reelection over a second-rate candidate offers a lesson for Republicans on how to win. Because W favored mass immigration — and managed a higher-than-average share of the Hispanic vote — today’s GOP should follow suit. Yet he conveniently overlooks not only dramatically changed circumstances but also a crucial fact: Bush’s approval ratings were lower than Obama’s at this point in their respective presidencies.
Undaunted, Fleischer then scolds his party for “scaring” away young people, incanting the fizzled abracadabra of more legal privileges for a tiny but already politically-favored slice of the population, gays and lesbians, who are disproportionately upper-middle class. As if exchanging “LGBT” for “GOP” represents “the gateway” to reaching younger voters, as opposed to delivering tangibles like good jobs and higher wages.
Again, was this the verdict of the midterms?
Below the fold under Fleischer was further commentary by Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin. To their credit, these self-styled “reform conservatives” didn’t join Fleischer’s kumbaya with Obama and the Democrats on cultural issues. But rather than helping Republicans bond with their emerging coalition, the two policy wonks were distracted by the sleight-of-hand around a side issue: exploding costs — and diminishing returns — of post-secondary education.
While reforms of higher education are needed, it’s a cause confined to the interests of college-oriented 20-somethings and their parents, not the voting public at large, the majority of which do not have university degrees. Their immediate need is jobs, not diplomas.
Nor do Ponnuru and Levin consider that the college trap door was sprung with the collapse of the old private-sector middle class and — as captured by Joel Kotkin in The New Class Conflict — the corresponding rise of the now-dominant class, what he calls the “New Clerisy,” that profits from the higher-education racket. The two concede the need for tracks to high-wage jobs that preclude college, but their “application of conservative and libertarian principles,” falls short of responding to the reversal of the American pecking order that Kotkin finds ominous.
Even Charles Krauthammer misses. His Friday syndicated column repeated a few worthwhile ideas, including “rapid-fire measures to kill Obamacare with a thousand cuts.” Yet he still falls under the spell of his publisher and other prestidigitators who want to transform the Obama rebuke into power for the president to negotiate more stealth trade deals that force the United States to abdicate her national sovereignty and solidarity and bow to an international plutocracy.
Krauthammer is surely not channeling middle-income Americans who, 20 years after NAFTA, are still waiting for the magical economic dividends promised by its proponents to appear.
The lesson for Republicans: Don’t be bewitched by the same old tricks served up by conservative insiders, especially when published by the Washington Post. Rather, listen to voices outside the Beltway who value the real-world power of the center-right coalition that delivered the GOP control of the Senate and its greatest congressional majority since 1932.
Voices like Joel Kotkin who recounts in Forbes that impressive GOP gains with middle-income voters determined the midterm results, noting that just before election, white working-class voters “favored the GOP by a 5 to 1 margin.”
Such grounding in reality, not the supposed wizardry of the Washington establishment, is the only way the party can preserve its majority, and win again in 2016.
— Robert W. Patterson served in the administrations of President George W. Bush and Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. Follow him on Twitter @RWPatterson.