October 22, 2013
By John Zogby
Washington, DC – I met just this past Thursday with about two dozen key Republican leaders in a mid-Atlantic state. It was the day after the “deal” and I began my informal luncheon remarks with a simple declaration: “I hope there isn’t anyone in this room who believes that what we all just experienced can in any way be spun as a GOP victory.” No one did. These men and women — seasoned politicians, community activists, and business and civic leaders– were just too smart. And they were gravely concerned about the future of their party.
I asked the question because after a long Wednesday of giving campus speeches and doing media interviews, I spent the wee hours of the night catching up on news of the “deal” and I read articles and columns from the National Review, Drudge Report, and opinions from the other side to capture the instant analysis. I learned that House Speaker John Boehner could hold his head high because he had won the loyalty of his caucus, that he had fought the good fight after all, that the Republicans actually won because they got a continuation of the sequester and now further debate would be driven by the GOP.
I was reminded of one of my best friends during my freshman year in college. Gerry was a trash talker and practical joker. After a long night of his taunting a group of upperclassmen on our floor, he was grabbed by two guys, his arms twisted behind his back. A third pushed him down on the floor in a full Nelson headlock, while a fourth stepped on his neck while he was face down on the floor. Gerry was very funny. With whatever voice he could muster, he said, “Now I got you where I want you. Have you all had enough?”
The GOP achieved a Gerry Morris Victory on Wednesday night. This was a loss so big, so embarrassing, so deadly. They shut the government down to try to defund Obamacare. Not only did they lose there, but while the Obamacare website was on tilt, the nation was talking about the GOP shutting the government down and threatening the full faith and credit of the nation. While pundits had been suggesting that the party would still hold on to the House after the 2014 elections, now there is talk that the public’s disgust with all politicians will define the campaign and ultimately hurt the GOP most.
What is so sad is what has happened to our national community and to our public discourse. The ugliest impact of decennial “Gerrymandering Gone Wild” is not the creation of safe partisan districts. That has always been with us. Rather, it is the myopia that comes from legislators who only listen to their districts, the extreme partisans in those districts, and the special interests out of DC who mobilize those extremists and empower them with the narrowest of information. And our legislators then turn around and call these pep rallies, phone calls and emails, “the American people”.
So what do we know for sure? In our latest Zogby Analytics poll, President Obama’s job approval is up one point to 46% — after all this. His disapproval is down to 51%. Congress’s hovers in the low teens. (Here’s a thought: How many “safe” districts are really “safe” when the overall approval ratings is in the low teens?) The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. The President refuses to compromise with a gun to his head. John Boehner kept his Speakership and is a new hero for “fighting the good fight”.
Except, like my buddy Gerry from all those years ago, it just wasn’t a good fight after all.