Stimulus No Votes Were a Republican Mistake

Not a smart start to this moment of national unity.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I think that, looking back, the Republican Party will conclude that it made a political mistake in opposing President Obama's economic stimulus plan in lockstep unanimity.

I say that as someone who has argued here, in agreement with the GOP on several of the points (It's not enough stimulus. The bill bears hidden agendas. The big construction projects will take too long. There should be more tax breaks.) made by House Republicans in yesterday's debate.

Yes, I recognize that, having been reduced by the voters in two successive elections to a regional minority faction, the House Republican need something to define themselves, rally the troops back home and satisfy their talk radio blowhard allies.

Some of the Republican strategists, no doubt, looked back to how George Mitchell led the steadfast Democratic opposition to George H.W. Bush, forcing him to swallow his "read my lips" pledge and okay new taxes, and how Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich resisted Bill Clinton's big deficit reduction package in 1992. In both cases, the determined resistance scored big in the next election.

But that was then. Generals should be wary of fighting yesterday's battles. If there is one thing that Obama and his troops proved in the last two years, it is that his message of national unity and common purpose has political oomph. Especially among younger voters, who have less patience for political games. Republicans, now more than ever, need to reach out to a transformed American electorate. They should worry more about expanding their base, not just stroking it.

Yet now, one week into America's new start, in a moment of national crisis, the Republicans have declared, by not giving the president a single lousy vote, that this was not about the country, not about your job, or your family or your hard-pressed business, but all about them.

All about politics.

All about jockeying for the next election.

Even if the Speaker was totally rolling them, the Republicans would have been wise to let some of their members join the majority, and make the opposition of the rest of them appear more principled.

Instead, they look churlish. And with that vote, have defined themselves in ways that could come back and haunt them.

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