Are Republicans afraid of governing?
That’s the question posed by the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen after catching this admission from Republican aides:
Republicans have been engaging in some premature drape-measuring for a few months in anticipation of winning back control of the House of Representatives. Some top GOP aides privately admit that they got ahead of themselves.
Turns out, not all Republicans are rooting for their own to win the House.
“I want Republicans to make massive gains but I want them to fall one vote short of taking the House,” said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary to President George W. Bush. “I want to see more evidence that Republicans are ready to govern. I want to see more substance, particularly on what spending they will cut.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who has been tasked with recruiting candidates by House Minority Leader John Boehner, confirmed that this view is held by numerous party operatives and leaders, though none in Congress.
I’m not actually convinced that there are many Republicans interested in actually governing the country, but those that are must find themselves in a bind. If Republicans win the House this November, they’ll have the economy to thank for creating the conditions for a win, and their polarizing rhetoric to thank for energizing the base. Railing against socialism and tyranny is ridiculous and counterproductive, but it encourages participation and action on part of Republican activists.
The problem comes when it’s actually time to make policy and pass bills. If Republicans capture the House, they’ll do it with a slight majority, and to do anything of consequence, they’ll be forced to cooperate and compromise with a more liberal Democratic minority (since the Democrats who lose will most likely come from moderate or conservative districts). Given that the GOP must accommodate a conservative and increasingly fickle base (see: Sen. Bob Bennett), Republicans risk a grassroots revolt by working constructively with congressional Democrats.
Republicans have good reason to fear a House majority; not only will they be constrained by a Democratic Senate and White House, but they’ll have to contend with a base so rabidly anti-government that it’s now hostile to governing itself.