The Worst of Enemies; the Best of Friends

Dr. Malcolm Cross

Today the worst enemy of the Republican Party is the Republican Party.  Its best friend is the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party’s worst enemy is the Democratic Party.  Its best friend is the Republican Party.

Each party is showing such astonishing self-destructive ineptitude that it’s amazing either could have lasted as long as it has.  Consider first the Republicans.

The GOP lost the White House last November, but in losing it nonetheless showed unusual electoral strength at the polls.  It won back enough seats in the House of Representatives to put it within striking distance of winning an outright majority in 2022.  And it held on to 50 out of 100 Senate seats, with retaining an outright majority if it could win at least one of the two Georgia Senate seats up for grabs.

But though the Georgia Senate seats were eminently winnable, the GOP lost both.  Of course, its candidates were mediocre, with questionable ethics records.  And the Democrats had upgraded their get-out-the-vote strategies and tactics.  But what may have sealed the deal for the Democrats was President Trump’s relentless attacks on the integrity and ability of Georgia’s Republican election officials, claiming they were incapable of running honest elections.  This may well have suppressed enough Republican turnout to throw the elections to the Democrats.  After all, if potential Republican voters had become convinced that the election was rigged, that the outcome was a foregone conclusion, and that voting was therefore pointless, they may have just stayed at home.

To make matters worse, the Republicans have been tearing themselves apart over the issues of whether the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” what role did President Trump play in the “insurrection” of 1/6 and what role should he be allowed to play in the GOP today.  Republican leaders such as Kevin McCarthy seem to be accepting the legitimacy of President Biden’s election, while supporting the ousting of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position for her relentless attacks on Trump.  McCarthy’s acquiescence in Biden’s victory, coupled with Cheney’s uncompromising opposition to any future role for Trump, may well provoke more destructive hostility from Trump and his supporters, and more internal warfare.  At the very least, the spectacle the GOP has been making of itself is hardly conducive to instilling confidence that it can govern the country if it can’t govern itself.  Advantage:  Democrats.

But the Democrats may well be hurting themselves also, to the benefit of the Republicans.  With their razor-thin majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, they’re pushing massive spending bills certain to cause the deficit and the national debt to continue their upward spirals.  No doubt President Biden and Speaker Pelosi believe that given that they could lose the Congress in next year’s elections, they have to try to get as much through now before the possible GOP takeover, the return of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, and the elevation of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  But the extravagance of their proposed spending policies, as well as their proposed new taxes to try to pay for them, may increase the chances of a Republican takeover, no matter how bungling the Republicans may seem today.  After all, it was precisely the overreach of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their first terms as President which provoked massive GOP gains in the first off-year elections of their administrations.  

So the Republicans, despite their internal turmoil, may well be able to win back the Congress,  but if they do so it will be because voters will not be voting for the Republicans, but against the Democrats.  And should the Democrats retain the Congress, it may be due less to public approval of their policies, and more to disapproval of a Republican Party unable to govern itself, much less anything else.  Whichever party triumphs in 2021 will have not itself, but its opponent, to thank.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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