Karl Rove unwittingly reveals the sickness that grips Republican leadership

Karl Rove has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, The GOP’s Self-Defeating ‘Defunding’ Strategy. It’s behind a pay wall, unfortunately. If you’re not a subscriber you’ll have to go out and buy the paper.

Rove could not be more wrong. This is easy, this is an issue Republicans can win by losing.  If only they aren’t so damn dumb they let this opportunity slip away.

Two paragraphs that end his column reveal the error of his thinking and the sickness that currently plagues Republicans:

The desire to strike at ObamaCare is praiseworthy. But any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively.

The defunding strategy doesn’t. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.

Those paragraphs are the mindset of the Republican leadership and it, not the efforts to defund Obamacare, are what ails Republicans. It threatens their success in the 2014 elections, and it played a role in Republican losses in 2012.

Rove sets up two alternative goals that he claims must have a credible chance of succeeding before efforts to defund Obamacare would make sense. The first one, winning the legislative fight to defund, he says will fail because the Senate will reject it. But the U.S. Constitution gives the power to spend exclusively to the House of Representatives. Republicans control the House. They can refuse to approve funding for Obamacare. The Senate can reject it but it can’t make the House approve the funding if Republicans have the backbone to stand firm.

But that’s not even the most important aspect of Republicans standing their ground on Obamacare funding. It’s Rove’s second stated goal that is the most important and the easiest to achieve. Affecting broad public opinion positively for Republicans can be had if Republicans will just find the will to oppose Obamacare.

There is one tried and true formula for Republican gains in future elections. That is to distinguish themselves from Democrats. Right now they are looking like the accommodation party, going along with whatever Obama and the Democrats want.  Rove cites the tired old Republican shibboleth that the independents don’t want bickering in Washington and will blame Republicans for it every time.  The Tea Party Republicans it’s a crock, and that was the key to their successes in the 2010.  The independents want Obamacare stopped.  They’ll vote Republican if they believe Republicans will oppose Obamacare. The Rove mindset is showing them that Republicans won’t, that they are no different than Democrats on Obamacare.

Romney was such a weak candidate and so aligned with the Republican old guard even his repeated assurances that he would repeal Obamacare were not enough to bring independents to the polls for Republicans in 2012.  You can’t simply tell people you will do something. You have to show them that you mean it, that you won’t reverse course once elected.  George H.W. Bush’ s broken promise, his “read my lips” promise that turned out to mean nothing at all, still haunts the Republican party.

Republicans need to find a way to show the American people that they are the opposition party, the party that is trying to stop the Democrats from succeeding in ripping apart the American health care system. The effort to defund Obamacare can be successful, but it doesn’t have to be successful to accomplish what the Republicans desperately need. The effort has to be made To show the American people that the Republicans are not simply joining the Democrats and leaving the majority of Americans will no representation in government at all.

Republicans like Karl Rove will be remembered in history as the ones who time and again missed great opportunities. Right now there is an opportunity for Republicans to reach out and connect with the clear majority who want Obamacare stopped.  This is a grand opportunity to show those people that voting for Republicans is the way to stop the Democrats. Right now many of those people do not see any reason to vote for Republicans. A lot of them may may be wondering if there is any reason to vote at all. They didn’t in 2012 and enough of them stayed home on election day to deliver victory to Obama and the Democrats. The Karl Rove mindset is responsible for that.