Ideas for Republican strategy for 2018

Republicans are losing the midterms. Polls show them about 8% behind the Democrats. The web site Five Thirty Eight has them at less than 20% chance of holding the House. It's time for a Hail Mary pass. Here are four possibilities.

First, personalize the election. If the election is just Republicans vs. Democrats, the Democrats win. The Republicans have to put a face on the party. It can't be Donald Trumps's. In Europe, parliamentary elections focus on the party leaders. In Britain in the last election, the contest was Theresa May vs. Jeremy Corbyn. Before that, it was David Cameron vs. Gordon Brown. Voters don't know who their Congressman is, so they tend for vote by party. That would be a disaster for the Republicans. So, they need to find someone to represent the party.

The best candidate is Paul Ryan. The election should be presented as Paul Ryan vs. Nancy Pelosi. It's said that in politics, the better looking one always wins. That gives an opening to the Republicans. Television advertising should always show pictures of Ryan and Pelosi. The attack ads should focus on Pelosi and end with: "I'm Paul Ryan, and I approve this message". There is a lot of material to use. Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal. That would antagonize not just conservatives, but also moderates. She also epitomizes the quasi corruption of politics by special interests. Tim O'Reilly wrote: "But too often, regulations serve the needs of government rather than citizens, or of those with access to the regulatory process. Policy makers have come to accept the idea that rules are made to balance the competing interests of various parties rather than to serve the public - I still remember a conversation I had with former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the 2011 Stop Online Piracy Act. I made my case for the arguments against it as bad public policy, but her response told me what the real decision criteria were: 'We have to balance the interests of the tech industry with the interests of Hollywood.'"

Paul Ryan should challenge Pelosi to a debate. The voters would see them side by side. The visual effect alone would help Republicans. Ryan's debating skills (relative to Pelosi's) would also help.

Second, the Republicans should exploit their majority to set the agenda. They should emphasize issues where the majority of Americans agree with them and where the Democrats would have trouble accommodating them.

A good example is term limits. The voters are overwhelmingly in favor of them, but the Democrats are opposed. Republican incumbents are also opposed, but if incumbents were exempted, almost all Republicans would vote for it. Most of the Democrats would vote against it, largely because the lobbyists would unanimously oppose it. A Constitutional amendment would fail on a near party line vote. That would be perfect as a campaign issue.

Another example would be to sunset all Federal laws. A law could be passed that would have every existing law expire after ten years. The entire legal code would be divided into 40 sections, and each section would expire at three month intervals. This would probably pass the House on a party line vote, but would fail in the Senate due to a filibuster.

Still another example would be to allow States to override Federal laws. This would mean that a State could pass a law that would invalidate a Federal law within its jurisdiction. The obvious example would be marijuana legalization, but it would be broader. For example, if a State wanted to make a drug available to its citizens even though it hadn't been approved by the FDA, it could do so. This would also pass on a party line vote, but would fail in the Senate due to a filibuster. Polls show that the voters trust the States more than the Federal government.

In addition to the bills Democrats couldn't support, there are also bills they couldn't oppose. The best example would be the continuity of government amendment. After the 9/11 attacks, a commission recommended that a Constitutional amendment be passed to have a line of succession for House and Senate members. Each Senator or Representative would draw up a list of people that would take over for him if he were killed or incapacitated. The list would have at least five names and at least three of them would be outside the District of Columbia. This could be made more attractive to the Congress by allowing proxy voting.

Another example would be a Constitutional amendment to clean up obvious oversights. Article I, Section 3, clause 6 says that when the President is being tried by the Senate after having been impeached, the Chief Justice shall preside. The obvious reason for that is that if the Vice President were to preside, he would have a conflict of interest: if the President were convicted and removed from office, the Vice President would become President. But it makes no mention of the case where a Vice President is being tried. That means the Vice President would preside over his own trial. This could have happened with Dick Cheney.

Passing these bipartisan amendments would show Congress can get things done, which would raise the approval rating of Congress.

Third, use a plebiscite to focus attention on immigration. Polls show that the voters support Dreamers, but oppose chain migration and the diversity lottery. Congress could pass a bill that would accomplish those things, but conditional upon each being approved by a plebiscite. The idea of submitting a proposal directly to the voters is popular, so the voters would like the idea. In addition, this would focus attention on immigration, which in turn would favor Republicans.

Fourth, make an issue of political correctness. PC is enormously unpopular. This leaves an opening for the Republicans. A good place to start would be Minnesota, where Al Franken was pressured to resign over politically incorrect jokes. This could be a very useful issue. E.g. "This is just bored rich kids who have nothing better to do than annoy people."

Posted 2018/October/19