By Brent Budowsky - 01/22/14 05:30 PM EST
The Republican Party is widely viewed by voters as offering little except a fanatic personal and partisan antipathy toward President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as obsessive compulsions about Benghazi and ObamaCare, without any credible message about how life for Americans might improve if more Republicans are elected.
Republicans in Congress suffer from all-time low approval ratings, ranging between 7 percent and 13 percent. The Tea Party suffers from all-time low approval ratings that range between the teens and low 20s. The GOP brand suffers from a decade of brand destruction that has led to Democratic victories in national elections in 2006, 2008 and 2012. And now Republicans have begun an intense intraparty civil war that pits unpopular Washington Republican insiders against the unpopular Tea Party, which implodes the coalition of the only recent national election won by Republicans, in 2010.
Last week I warned Democrats about the dangers they face in 2014. What political analysts and media underestimate today, as the Christie scandals unfold, are the equally grave dangers facing the GOP.
To define the dilemma faced by Republicans, I coin the phrase “the GOP’s Benghazi disease.” By this I mean the overwhelming tendency of Republican Party to define itself almost exclusively by the political opponents it obsessively despises and government policies it compulsively obstructs, making the GOP the party of negativity and obstruction at a time when voters want an end to the hyper-partisanship and gridlock that poisons public attitudes towards official Washington today.
One obvious example of the GOP’s Benghazi disease is Republicans’ pathological and seemingly permanent obsession with the tragedy of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, itself. This Benghazi disease is a transparent and ineffective attempt to exploit the deaths of Americans to migrate antipathy from the president to Clinton, by Republicans who aggressively fought to cut U.S. embassy security funding, thereby endangering American diplomats threatened by terrorists worldwide.
This GOP Benghazi disease has done nothing to help Republicans. After what seems an eternity of deafening and tone-deaf GOP attacks over the issue, and the huge waste of taxpayer money by House Republicans to pursue this partisan vendetta against the latest target of vindictive GOP venom, Clinton still towers above all potential 2016 GOP opponents by landslide margins.
In a presidential debate, Clinton would decimate any Republican nominee over Benghazi by correctly stating that she has repeatedly taken responsibility for her role in the 2012 tragedy and that Republicans have never taken any responsibility for their role in aggressively fighting to cut embassy security spending.
While the GOP Benghazi disease has done nothing to reduce Clinton’s epic margins of victory in 2016 match-ups, it does great damage by preventing the GOP brand from being identified with constructive solutions to America’s problems. It plays brilliantly within the narrow echo chamber of the GOP right that is drenched in Obama-hate and Hillary-hate, but acts like a political narcotic that prevents the party from offering up the medicine to cure problems Americans want leaders to solve.
This GOP Benghazi disease attitude infects countless issues. While the GOP can vilify Obama and ObamaCare, I was right in a recent column that ObamaCare sales have been surging. The law has problems that must be addressed, but what is the GOP solution? To repeal ObamaCare, when repeal is unpopular? To cancel policies for Americans with preexisting conditions? To cut Medicare, which GOP Benghazi disease advocates view as a legacy of Kennedy and Johnson, or to cut Social Security, which they view as a legacy of FDR?
Transposing the GOP Benghazi disease of vilification to immigration, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, extending jobless benefits and other issues leads Republicans into a demographic kamikaze mission against broad swaths of American voters.
Most analysts miss the grave damage to Republicans of the destruction of the Chris Christie brand, which once made the governor appear as the only credible opponent to Clinton in 2016, the antidote to the GOP Benghazi disease and the antithesis of the discredited national GOP brand.
Now, the only question about Christie is whether he personally ordered or ineptly led without knowing a government that vilified and bullied political opponents. This is the essence of the GOP Benghazi disease. It destroys the Christie brand, merges it with the unpopular GOP brand, and leaves Christie as just another Republican who would lose a landslide to Clinton in 2016.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.