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Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Have elected Republicans lost their collective minds? In past legislative sessions House Republicans have been the one beacon of common sense. They opposed profligate spending, tried numerous times for common-sense budgets, and opposed Obamacare.

Their efforts were working. Obamacare is crashing beyond all expectations. Beyond the unworkable website people are beginning to see the fundamental flaws in a poorly written law. By even conservative estimates the net loss of health coverage is about 5 million people. The negative effects of Obamacare on hiring and business expansion are glaring. Spending for public assistance programs is exceeding estimates, and real unemployment, as shown by the labor participation rate, is increasing.

Public sentiment in nearly all polls is overwhelmingly against Obamacare. The President’s approval rating has plummeted. There has never been a more favorable environment for basic Republican tenets such as fiscal constraint, lower taxes, and abandoning national health care in favor of other reforms.

Those items, especially Obamacare, are ready-made campaign issues that are shifting support to their side. Yet the establishment Republicans seem to have taken leave of their senses. Republicans seem intent on bringing forth an immigration bill in this session.

They have received warnings from the more sensible in the party. Yet it seems that if Cruz, Lee, Paul and several Representatives warn of this being a mistake, it must be a good move. They ignore public sentiment on the issue. Support for immigration reform is not even in the top 10 concerns of the average citizen. Far more pressing are things such as job creation, taxes, health care, government expansion and privacy.

This raises the obvious questions of why this issue and why now? I can’t come up with even a remotely sensible answer. Here are some possible ones that I have heard.

One is that some are looking to retirement and trying to secure high-paying positions when they leave government. If that is true, they need to be voted out immediately. Any elected official who places personal gain over good for the country should go. Oh, wait, aren’t we the dumba**es who keep electing Harry Reid? I guess Republicans of like mind are safe.

Another suggestion is that Republicans have become so entrenched in Beltway politics that they either no longer listen to their constituents or no longer believe them. This theory seems more believable. There is growing sentiment nationwide that national elected officials have stopped listening to us. Have you ever wondered why the majority of governors are Republican but that does not translate to federal representation? Perhaps that is why.

The remaining possibility is that it is much less work to be the minority party. As such, you don’t have to take responsibility for anything. It is easier to go along and reap the goodies at the end, going back to the self-interest motive.

I don’t have the answer. I do know the GOP is divided between those who desire status quo and those who try to bring the party back to its roots. For example, Sen. John McCain recently called Sen. Ted Cruz a “whacko-bird” after his filibuster over defunding Obamacare. McCain was recently censured by the Arizona Republican Party while being praised by the Democrat Party leader. SCruz received an eight-minute standing ovation from over 10,000 people when he returned to Texas.

Who better represents the GOP? Answer that, and we will know the direction of the party. There is room on both sides for some give. Unfortunately, it seems those entrenched the most deeply in Beltway politics are the least likely to give. They enjoy the perks of being “in” while lapping up the advice of self-interested consultants, media, donors, and Democrats.

My parents were Democrats for years. They changed parties with the emergence of Ronald Reagan. As my mother often says, “Today’s Republicans are like the Democrats of old. I can’t tell you what today’s Democrats are.” I suspect that will be the case until a major economic catastrophe happens. That is the topic of a future column.

We are slow learners; history repeats itself as a result. When times are good, liberals are elected. When things go bad, conservatives are. This time there are excesses of the last few decades and a record deficit. There is a rising tide of conservatism coming in this country along with a sense that all is not well. I only hope the GOP can quit listening to Beltway pundits before it is too late.

Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday.