Why Republicans Must At Last Govern

This week we say “goodbye” to 2014. Some may mumble “good riddance” to it as well. But for moderates and liberals, it wasn’t an entirely bad year.

To be sure, Democrats took a drubbing General Election night 2014. The numbers told the story. Republicans built their majority in the United States House of Representatives to 250 members of the 435-member body. They seized control of the Senate as well, claiming a 54-seat majority.

When Congress convenes in the new year, only Barack Obama and his veto will stand between the Republican Party and whatever their increasingly right-wing, tea party-besotted majorities want.

But poll numbers tell another, more ambiguous story of the past year. In a pre-Christmas Gallup poll, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of Democrat Barack Obama’s conduct of the presidency, up from as low as 40 percent in some pre-general election polls. The same Gallup poll showed that 16 percent viewed Congress favorably.

Washington gridlock has obviously served neither party well.

So what can we learn from all this?

An older, less diverse, smaller electorate cultivated by Republicans will control off-year elections; a younger, more diverse, larger electorate romanced by Democrats will favor them in presidential years. Such has been the case for the past quarter century.

To win the presidency in 2016, however, congressional Republicans must govern.

They can’t succeed by simply fetishizing opposition to Obama — for example, by voting to repeal Obamacare repeatedly and having the president veto their bill repeatedly. That — and variations on it — will get old fast.

Only by governing, by cutting deals, will congressional Republicans fashion a presidential mandate in 2016.


Because youth, common sense and an Obama unfettered by concerns about re-election will thwart them if they don’t.

Consider Obama’s recent move to normalize relations with Cuba. It simply made sense. The Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power took place more than a half-century ago. The Cold War ended a quarter of century ago with the Soviet Union’s collapse. And the U.S. has enjoyed normal relations with its largest, best-armed Cold War opponents, China and Russia, for more than three decades.

The American people understand this. A Zogby Analytics survey following Obama’s announced rapprochement with Cuba showed that 56 percent of those surveyed approved, 29 percent disagreed, 17 percent were not sure. Digging deeper, the pollsters found that 77 percent of Democrats approved, and so did 56 percent of Independents. Even a third of Republicans agreed with the president.

Still, a phalanx of Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential candidate for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016 (or ’20, or ’24; Rubio is a young man), denounced Obama.

Rubio’s concerns over human rights violations by the Cuban government are justified, but many of his fellow Cuban Americans are willing to overlook them. A recent survey of Cuban Americans by Florida International University found that 68 per- cent of them favored restoring relations with Cuba; 90 percent among younger respondents. Seventy-seven percent held that the U.S.’s “embargo (of Cuban goods) has not worked,” and 69 percent favored lifting travel restrictions to Cuba.

One of the ironies of the Cold War is that where it turned hot — in Korea, at the Bay of Pigs and in Vietnam — Communist regimes or socialist economics still hold sway. Everywhere else, from Moscow to Shanghai, free- market economics has triumphed and totalitarian governments feel increased pressure to democratize.