First, the GOP has shown it’s terrible at picking its battles. First, it was food stamps. Late last summer, Republicans took note of a depressing milestone a record number of people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, by demanding cuts.
That was the wrong fight to pick. Sure, there’s waste and abuse, but as far as welfare programs go, SNAP (or food stamps) is relatively well-run. States run their own programs, with federal dollars (devolution is good). And all states have learned to build in safeguards against abuse. Just last week, a Kentucky woman was arrested — yes, arrested — for trying to buy an iPad with food stamps. In Texas, the Lone Star Card can’t be used on non-nutritious or frivolous items.
There’s no advantage to be gained from this argument — it merely serves to alienate many, many Americans who have fallen on hard times. That record number of people on food stamps could have helped Republicans show how the Obama economy has failed.
Another example is House Speaker John Boehner’s inexcusable adjourning of the House on Tuesday before it could vote on relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Look, there are some things we really do need a federal government for — we all agree on that. Disaster relief is one of them. Few cities, states or even regions are truly prepared to hand the aftermath of a natural disaster, especially one on the scale of a hurricane. In 2008, Hurricane Ike caused an estimated $29.5 billion in damage in the U.S. — that’s a sum far beyond local and state resources.
The second reason the Democrats’ “party of chaos” strategy will likely work is Boehner himself — and other limping leaders of the GOP. They’re not leading. Where are the big ideas? Where is the coherent strategy to unshackle the economy?
Real leadership means not putting off tough decisions. Those “sequestration” cuts were supposed to be a bitter pill — and they represent the only real spending cuts either party has put forth. But Republicans are refusing to take their medicine.
Democrats appear poised to win more arguments over money in the coming months. Conservatives need a new message and perhaps a new messenger to break through the political ice.