Columns, Opinion

SZAFRANSKI: GOP in trouble

Now that the stimulus is law, the question has turned from ‘What will the stimulus look like?’ to ‘Who is going to accept it?’ Several Republican governors, most notably Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have announced that they will not accept all of the money allotted to their states.

The Republicans are in disarray. Republican officials, many of whom are prospective presidential contenders, are competing against each other for media attention and prominence.

Lacking control of both elected branches of the federal government, the Republican Party is without a definite leader. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lacks the gravitas and renown. House Minority Leader John Boehner has a chance to become the face of the GOP, but he lacks the controversial air that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoyed. Instead, it has fallen to figures like Jindal. In fact, the Louisiana governor delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress.

The GOP needs more than a face, however. After Obama’s victory and the Democratic expansion of power on Capitol Hill, many wondered what future the GOP had. Despite some minor victories – the GOP notably won the seat representing New Orleans – the Republicans face some trouble heading into the 2010 midterm elections, particularly in the Senate. Part of the problem is that they have neither focused on any particular issues nor articulated well their stand on problems that are on the minds of most Americans.

Maintaining general opposition to Obama does not make the GOP stand out either. Because any substantive positions the GOP turns out seem inappropriate and dated given the economic crisis, neither the public nor the media shows much interest.

Should the Republicans regain momentum, Democrats must make sure that it does not come on the heels of scandal. Corruption on the part of Mark Foley and Tom DeLay chased the GOP out of the majority in 2006. Unfortunately, only weeks after the 2008 election, former Democratic governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich dropped a bomb on the Senate with his appointment of Roland Burris. The Senate Ethics Committee is currently investigating Burris and may take action to remove him if he engaged in pay-for-play as the evidence seems to increasingly suggest.

The new chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, an African-American, plans to expand his party’s appeal in order to regain political relevance. White males as a group, traditionally the GOP’s base, are shrinking in number relative to other groups, meaning that Republicans must look to attract voters that have traditionally voted Democratic. That process may already be underway with a Republican winning urban, democratic New Orleans for the first time in recent memory.’ If such a scenario goes nationwide, the Democrats may be facing bigger problems than just the fallout of an eleventh-hour act by a disgraced governor.’ In the meantime, both Democrats and Republicans have an economic crisis to address, which means putting differences aside as much as possible and saving the politicking for election years.

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