Mitch McConnell’s Theory of Stasis

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In a National Journal interview he explains the thing he understands that most political journalists don’t get:

McConnell: In January of 2009, I looked at a lot of poll data, and the ray of hope that I could give my members was that the independents that wiped us out in ’06 and ’08 held similar views, ones that I knew most of my members had, on spending and national security. I thought we could regain their confidence on spending and national security. Then as the year unfolded — whether it became the stimulus, the budget, Guantanamo, health care — what I tried to do and what John [Boehner] did very skillfully, as well, was to unify our members in opposition to it. Had we not done that, I don’t think the public would have been as appalled as they became over the fact that the government was now running banks, insurance companies, car companies, taking over the student-loan business, which they’re going to try to do in this health care bill, and taking over one-sixth of the economy.

Public opinion can change, but it is affected by what elected officials do. Our reaction to what they were doing had a lot to do with how the public felt about it. Republican unity in the House and Senate has been the major contributing factor to shifting American public opinion. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time working among our members to try to get us all on the same page. This year we had a remarkable level of harmony, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a constant effort to try to interact, communicate, and persuade. My view is that the most important vote is the next vote.

That’s exactly right. Since January of 2009, instead of sticking their fingers in the wind and only opposing unpopular initiatives, Republicans have reduced the popularity of initiatives by opposing them. The blanket opposition makes Obama’s initiatives look “partisan” and then it leads, necessarily, to Democratic infighting that further reduces support. If you don’t care at all about the welfare of human beings, this is a very smart strategy.