Friday, December 6, 2013
MY FIRST BOSS in politics was captain of the Harvard football team. He was big and tall, but friendly enough so I figured he would want to hear about how my modest salary equated to a shockingly meager wage when divided by the number of hours I was working.
Being from Orono and in charge of a cash-strapped campaign, my boss could offer me only some folksy advice. He told me that rewards come from making the most of your opportunities. He also suggested good-naturedly that you could not swing a dead cat without hitting an unemployed college graduate.
Being content with an opportunity and making the most of it has opened doors for me over the years and kept me from being the unemployed target of a cat corpse. For many soon-to-be-out-of-work Republican congressmen it is likely too late for that advice.
Entrusted with an opportunity to help lead our nation, a band of GOP lawmakers is playing primary-style politics with the routine operation of the federal government and the fate of the national economy. Their losing strategy has caught the attention and the disdain of voters and must be abandoned immediately.
All Americans soon will pay a very high price if we stay on this path. And no one will pay a higher price, at least politically, than the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives hold the majority in that chamber. They are using their leverage on must-pass budget and debt ceiling measures to try to sideline the Affordable Care Act and secure spending concessions from President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.
I like the principle and applaud the passion, but what we are witnessing is the Capitol Hill equivalent of the kid who threatens to take his ball and go home because he finds himself on the losing side. Spoiled brats occasionally will get the attention and unearned outcomes they desire, but it does not take long before the spoiled kid stops getting invited to play.
In some congressional districts and in the reddest-of-red states, the base-focused tactics and rhetoric being employed by the national Republican Party can be a winning strategy. The GOP numbers are large enough in these areas to overcome the disdain moderate voters have for brinksmanship and shutdowns.
Nationally, however, Republicans are digging a hole for our next presidential candidate that will put the White House out of reach for our party's nominee in 2016. The American people are not going to give the keys to the Oval Office to a party that is willing to shut down government to make a point and play political chicken with the national economy.
This is not politics as usual where the rhetoric of a hard fight quickly fades once a resolution is reached. People are losing confidence that our elected officials can find compromise and our collective distrust of Washington is having tangible impacts that are far more significant than the closure of Acadia National Park.
According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, consumer confidence is dropping "like a rock" because of the tandem budget crises. Just 14 percent of Americans think our nation is heading in the right direction and fewer than one in five of us believe that the economy will improve over the next 12 months.
These are significant drops from just a month ago and represent lows not seen since the banking collapse of 2008. As we learned from that financial meltdown, a lack of confidence will cripple an economy.
Actual or perceived economic uncertainties are really one and the same. Every spending decision or investment delayed by homeowners, car shoppers, business managers or entrepreneurs waiting for a resolution in Washington costs us real economic output. Jobs will be lost and income reduced as economic activity drops.
The difference between now and the Great Recession that started five years ago is that the cause is grounded in partisan politics. Voters know it and are blaming Republicans.
Voters are placing the blame for the shutdown on the GOP rather than President Obama by an astounding 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent). Voter frustration is so high that the Affordable Care Act labeled Obamacare by GOP opponents actually has gained in popularity since the shutdown began.
Consequently, Republican Party favorability numbers are at an all-time low. At 24 percent, the block of voters who have a favorable opinion of the GOP is just 3 points higher than favorability figures for the tea party, a polarizing political group often linked to the Republican Party.
To put it another way, voters now believe all Republicans are extremists. And that is what you get when you take an opportunity to lead and squander it through brinksmanship and shutdown politics.
Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @demerittda