Opinion

The Great Debate

from Reihan Salam:

What the GOP can learn from the Koch brothers

 

Republicans are very enthusiastic about this year’s midterm congressional elections, and it is easy to see why. Obamacare, the president’s signature domestic policy legislation, remains unpopular. Turnout during midterm elections skews older and whiter than turnout during presidential elections, and Republicans tend to fare better among older and whiter voters.

And then there is the fact that Democrats are defending a number of Senate seats in states that tend to back Republican presidential candidates. Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight, best known for his eerily good job predicting the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, forecasts that Republicans will retake the Senate.

So can the GOP sit back and relax? Not quite. As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post reminds us, even if Republicans barely retake the Senate in 2014, the GOP faces a much tougher Senate map in 2016, when the electorate will be younger and more diverse. If Republicans want to achieve ambitious goals like replacing Obamacare and implementing pro-growth tax reform, holding the Senate for two years under a lame-duck president will do them little good.

Republicans need to think long-term. First, the GOP should offer a more compelling domestic policy agenda, as the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru argues. The second, more prosaic step is to make better use of technological tools. Without a compelling agenda, Republicans won’t deserve to win. But even with a compelling agenda, Republicans will have to embrace the technological, experiment-based revolution that has allowed innovative companies like Amazon, Google, and Starbucks to conquer their markets, and which GOP campaigns have been slow to grasp.

Two recent articles describe how conservative political operatives helped Republican David Jolly win a March 11 special election in a Florida congressional district that Barack Obama won in 2008 and in 2012. The first, by Alex Roarty in National Journal, attributed Jolly’s success to the efforts of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Roarty reports that the NRCC and its allies targeted the voters most essential to victory and hit upon a message -- vote Republican or House Minority Nancy Pelosi will once again become House Speaker -- that convinced them to come to the polls.

When excessive wealth meets dysfunctional politics

The election is months away but figuratively, at least, the billionaires are voting early and often.

Paul Singer and Art Pope, and, of course, the brothers Charles and David Koch are busy punching ballots for the Republicans; George Soros and Tom Steyer, meanwhile, are arranging votes for the Democrats, or at least most of them, since Steyer, an environmental advocate, is focusing of climate change. Their minions are not, however, literally buying votes — the way Gilded Age operatives for George Hearst or Leland Stanford used to do.

That kind of exercise, though arguably more efficient in the “marketplace of ideas,” remains illegal. At least for now. Instead, money is transmuted into “speech.” As long as there is no specified quid pro quo from those elected with their money — and perhaps only electable because of their money — no one has broken the law.

What the IRS should be scrutinizing

President Barack Obama, making a statement at the White House, announced that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner had been ousted, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The tempest about the Tea Parties and the Internal Revenue Service is a gift for the Republican Party — and one that obscures the real issues.

Why, for example, has the IRS been so indulgent of far bigger, flagrantly partisan tax-exempt groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity?  Such groups spent hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars to influence the last two elections, in clear violation of IRS rules.

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