Republicans in the House of Representative are a distinct minority holding just 178 of 435 seats (there are at least three vacancies, only in one of which the GOP has a chance to take a Democratic seat). One might hope this small band would offer detailed alternatives to the majority’s policies and proposals, but there’s a political risk to that strategy. Standing for something, as opposed to against most everything, provides an opportunity for your opponents to debate you on substance, not emotion or ideology. Democrats failed to do so when they were in the minority. Asking Republicans to come forward with their own budget is somewhat naive, requiring a level of political courage no one should expect.
The other alternative for a minority party is to adopt guerilla tactics, constantly harassing the majority through legislative maneuvering, talk show diatribes and attacks through a variety of communication channels. Ideally the minority party should seek an occasional victory to both rally the troops and depress the opposition. When you’re 70 seats short of a majority, however, that’s not easy.
Fortunately for Republicans, there are conservative Democrats in Congress who might be willing to hep them out on specific issues. These “Blue Dog” Democrats are a formal, recognized group — they even have their own web site. With 47 members (one suspects there may be a few more sympathizers out there, at least on some issues) they could be of great help to the GOP. Fiscally conservative, the Blue Dogs have been as critical of some of the economic plans touted by the Obama Administration and the House Leadership as Republicans have been, albeit more politely.
If Republican House Leaders want to have an impact on the budget or health care reform or taxes you’d think they’d be reaching out to these moderate Democrats, right? Not the current GOP leadership. They’re so partisan they go out of their way to insult these potential allies. According to a posting in Politico by Alex Isenstadt, House Republican leader John Boehner referred to Blue Dog Democrats as “lap dogs.” Speaking before a group of appreciative lobbyists (there’s an astute setting for flinging insults) Mr. Boehner said the moderate Democrats refuse “to get off people’s laps and actually do something.”
Eventually, Republicans will recognize they need all the help they can get, even if it comes from moderate Democrats, many of whom occupy seats the GOP will be targeting in the 2010 mid-term election. House Minority Leader Boehner will have made their ability to work together a bit tougher.
Thid clod-footed politics could, I suppose, help explain why House Republicans got to be a minority party in the first place.