Radical. That's the word to describe what Tea Party Republicans have done in the past two weeks, shutting down the government and threatening to send our economy into recession or even worse turmoil by defaulting on our financial obligations. Radical is the label to pin to a party that loses an election and then demands the implementation of their agenda or else the country gets it. And that's the word Democrats need to hang around the neck of every Republican on the ballot in 2014, especially those running for the House of Representatives.
A year is an eternity in politics, but we need to make sure that voters remember the Tea Party Republican radicalism of 2013 when they head to the voting booth 13 months from now. We need a national campaign that ties every Republican candidate to the Tea Party, to John Boehner, and to Ted Cruz. We need voters to see any candidate associated with those characters as not capable of being a responsible representative.
Recent polling shows that the American people strongly disapprove of the radicalism Republicans have shown during the shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis. The longer the shutdown has gone on, the worse people think of the Republicans and -- ironically given that their initial goal was to gut Obamacare -- the better people think of the president's health care reform law.
Approval ratings for Ted Cruz (and his sidekick in the Senate, Utah's Mike Lee) have fallen through the floor. Gallup recently found that the Republican Party's favorability rating is lower than the rating for either party at any point since Gallup started measuring party favorability 21 years ago. Think about that for a second.
Similarly, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also found Republican favorability at an all-time low of 24 percent. Oh, and the Tea Party came in three points lower (also an all-time low for them). And as for who is to blame for the shutdown? It's Republicans by a 22-point margin, a worse verdict for them even than the one Americans rendered during the 1995-96 shutdown. All this is happening while President Obama's numbers have remained steady during the shutdown.
I have a few ideas about the kind of campaign Democrats should wage. I've been thinking about a national ad, but one that could easily be tailored to every race. The key is to show voters that when they vote for Candidate X, they are really voting for the Tea Party, for John Boehner, and for Ted Cruz.
CRASH (sound of dish breaking)
Spouse #1: What was THAT????
Spouse #2: Listen, we need to get our family's spending under control. You're going to
have to cut what you spend on food and clothes by 20 percent right now.
Spouse #1: Are you kidding? I'm not going to even discuss this until you stop --
CRASH (sound of another dish breaking)
Spouse #2: You need to give me what I want right now if you want me to stop.
Spouse #1: How about we cut some of the things you spend on, like --
CRASH (sound of third dish breaking)
Fade to black. Transition to image (with name at the bottom of the screen) of John Boehner, then Ted Cruz, then the face of the candidate being targeted. Each image stays on screen for a couple of seconds.
Voiceover speaks during the display of these images: That may be how Tea Party Republicans think we should run our government. The time has come for you to tell them what you think. A vote for (insert name of Republican candidate) is a vote for that kind of radicalism, for governing by blackmail. Remember what they did last fall, when they threatened to sink our entire economy if they didn't get what they wanted. The time has come to hold those radical Republicans accountable.
These guys are toxic. In 2014 Democrats need to put all Republican candidates on the defensive by emphasizing their role in supporting the radicalism of the Tea Party, John Boehner and Ted Cruz. We need to make sure these candidates are unable to distance themselves from Republican radicalism. They need to own it. And if they double down on that radicalism, all the better. You'll know we've succeeded when Republicans start saying, "Well, I'm not that kind of Republican. I'm not Tea Party."
And within the Republican Party, these kinds of cracks are beginning to show. Relatively reasonable Republicans are ready to isolate Tea Party radicals. Elections in 2014 offer an opportunity not only to retake the House of Representatives, but to break the stranglehold the radicals have exercised over congressional Republicans for too long.
This country cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis because one radical faction refuses to accept the results of an election. We need two parties that compete for votes at the ballot box and then, after the elections are over, act responsibly and get down to the business of governing. The only way that's going to happen is if voters punish Tea Party Republican radicalism by booting a good number of Republicans out of office. Teach them a lesson they won't soon forget.