William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Politics is a funny thing.
It’s not logical or linear. And it’s rarely predictable.
When one party is on top, it can seem like it’ll be there forever. Then, in the blink of an eye, it’s pushed from power and ridiculed as ideologically exhausted — often regardless of how successful it has been. How many times has liberalism or conservatism been declared dead in the past 50 years, only to romp in the next election cycle? The Republican Party was shattered in 1976. In 1980, it was the Democrats’ turn.
The starkest example of this is taking place in New York City. New Yorkers learned their lesson about liberalism in the late 1980’s and early ’90s — right? Voters there would never again go for a Kumbaya candidate or for hands-off police policies. Yet Bill de Blasio, an almost total unknown in early summer, is leading in the mayoral race by more than 40 points against a candidate who played a major role in the city’s historic revitalization. What got de Blasio there? Attacking the policing that saved New York City. When stories about his work with Marxist Sandinistas broke, de Blasio’s polling numbers actually went up.
All together now, New York: Kumbaya, my Lord.
The death of the Republican Party is all the talk now. There is a fatal schism, the line goes, between mainline Republicans and populist tea partyers. It will crack the GOP in half and render it impotent as a national force. It will be a white Southern party only; it will be permanently wiped off the face of the Northeast and West Coast.
At this very moment — days after the government shutdown — this argument sounds about right, obvious almost. How can Blue State Republicans survive U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his kamikaze debt-ceiling tactics?
The answer in a word is Democrats.
For as doctrinaire as the Republican Party is alleged to be these days, Democrats are far more so. I mean, what ever happened to the conservative Democrat? He is nonexistent in government today — literally.
The reason is the Democrats’ existential reliance on the public service unions to re-elect them. Step out of line by opposing increased public spending or pension benefits and you’re out. A well-funded primary will come your way. New York’s Working Families Party, an amalgam of union and other left-wing interests, has perfected this approach. It now dictates the agenda among New York Democrats.
On the federal level, one need only look at the Democrats’ reaction to the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles report, the fruit of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Remember that one? It was commissioned by President Obama to look at long-term debt issues at the advent of his presidency. That was almost $7 trillion ago.
The Republican Party is a beaten puppy, with its tail squarely between its legs. But it’s the only party addressing fiscal issues realistically. That will ensure its quick rebound, as preposterous as that might sound today.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.