As far as winning messages go, the national Republicans had one in 2010: It's jobs, stupid.
Well, it wasn’t that specifically, but they did hammer the president and the Democrats in Congress for not focusing on the economy and instead focusing on healthcare reform for America. They were relentless and they were disciplined and as a result they engineered a sweeping election that returned them to the majority in the House and closer than anyone predicted to a majority in the Senate.
But something happened on the way to moving to the larger office suites in the Capitol complex and inviting an army of Washington lobbyists back through the revolving door to take positions of senior leadership: They lost their way.
We’re beyond 100 days of Republican rule in the House and we haven’t seen any action or even an attempt to focus on jobs. In reality, we’ve seen them abandon their message about jobs for one they simply cannot resist — a sweeping social agenda on everything from guns to abortion, healthcare to Medicaid, workers' rights to marriage. The gang that focused like a laser on jobs to get elected forgot about everyone else’s jobs after they got elected.
Take the budget, for example. We need a budget that works for all Americans, not just a few. The Ryan Republican budget, unveiled with great fanfare last week, uses the guise of deficit reduction to unfairly target the most vulnerable Americans — using their backs to support GOP spending on their priorities — tax subsidies to the largest corporations and higher taxes and fewer services for the rest of us. They are pushing the elimination and privatization of Medicare and Medicaid while fiercely protecting subsidies to highly profitable Big Oil and tax breaks for the richest 1 percent of Americans.
This is no joke. Exxon Mobil paid zero in U.S. taxes in 2009 and still got a rebate of $156 million. In fact, the Big Oil and other major multinational corporations have spent more that $1 billion influencing Washington while paying nothing in U.S. taxes. (Source: Public Campaign report: “The Artful Dodgers.”)
As a message, the Republican budget is very clear. Our priorities come first, not the American people’s priorities. The Republican budget, approved by the House of Representatives last week without a single Democratic vote, tells America — you’re on your own. If you’re a senior or in the middle class, you’re going to keep paying taxes and we’re going to cut Medicaid and Medicare, eliminate funding for healthcare and other services and direct what’s left to Big Oil and other big corporations that don’t pay taxes.
It’s a startling message opportunity for Democrats, who had no consistent message in 2010. The Republican budget — it isn’t a “Pathway to Prosperity,” as Ryan audaciously dubbed it — it’s a “Map for Message” giving Democrats an easily definable and stark outline of the differences in priorities between the major political parties. The question is whether or not they can capitalize on it.
David Di Martino is CEO of Blue Line Strategic Communications Inc. The views expressed in this blog are his and do not necessarily represent Blue Line’s. Follow david: @bluelinedd.