In trying to understand the Republican Party’s internal battles, it helps to think of Michael and Sonny.
Corleone, that is.
On one side we have Sonny — the hot-headed, impulsive, shoot-now-take-names-later son of Don Corleone. On Capitol Hill, he personifies the tea party followers who would rather die on principle than live to win a later day.
On the other side, we have Michael — the cooler-headed son and intellectual strategist. On the Hill, Michael represents the so-called establishment legislators who understand the way forward but thus far have been reluctant to pull the trigger.
That’s a metaphor for all those literalists out there who may feel compelled to issue fresh gun-control imperatives. It means to take necessary, if unpleasant, action. Before action, however, there should be a plan, which has been demonstrably missing in recent weeks. Had there been a strategic, long-view plan rather than a series of tactical blunders, Republicans might now be basking in the realization of a dream: Obamacare is a hot mess.
Remember the “train wreck” Republicans kept promising? Well, guess what. It’s happening. The train is wrecking. And yet, rather than popping open the champagne as the Obamacare website crashes in a glut of glitches, Michael and Sonny are having a staring contest.
Meanwhile, almost two weeks after the government shutdown, polls are showing a shift in Democrats’ favor. Not only do fewer Americans view Republicans in a positive light but they’re becoming more, not less, approving of Obamacare. While Republicans were nudging the can up the road on the debt ceiling, approval for Obamacare leapt up 7 points, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal polls.
Tea-party warriors may prefer to perish on principle, but perish they will. And, if something doesn’t change fast and soon, the fear is that they’ll take down the House with them. Forget the Senate in 2014. And forget the White House for the foreseeable future.
Unless, that is, the hard-right suicide flame throwers can be neutralized or converted. The latter isn’t likely when the echo chamber cheers them on. And while organizations such as Heritage Action are grading legislators on their “conservative” performance. The threat of facing a primary challenge in their districts from someone even loonier keeps many in lockstep with Sonny.
Thus, the only alternative is a systematic, strategic purge of the GOP’s Sonny side. (Sonny Side Down?) Rational conservatives who understand that governing requires compromise, not just “winning,” need to form their own groups to first protect their reasonable legislators and then actively recruit and elect strong, likable candidates who can win general elections. They need to create their own scorecards to grade the obstructionists.
If Republicans can pull this off, then they can (maybe) keep the House and (just maybe) take the Senate.
Storming the barricades may be fine at times, but it’s helpful to also have a plan. Remember the day after shock and awe?