The wave that washed Democrats into office in 2006 began in September 2005. George W. Bush’s botched response to Katrina began a year-long series of scandals and missteps that left the GOP on the defensive and lacking a coherent message. Like today, they controlled both Houses of Congress as well as the presidency. They had nowhere to hide.
This year is starting to have a similar feel. The wheels are coming off the machine. Republicans failed to deliver on their signature campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. The president’s actions leave more Americans feeling uncertain about their future despite a relatively strong economy. Now, the party is divided over whether or not to back a US Senate candidate who quite clearly pursued sexual relationships with teenaged girls when he was in his 30s.
Like the 2006 wave, the 2010 wave that gave Republicans control of the US House began more than a year before that election. People unrealistically expected quick relief from the worst recession in 70 years. Instead of focusing on their economic anxiety, President Obama pushed through an imperfect healthcare reform package that was demonized by Republicans as socialized medicine that would send us into an even greater recession. It didn’t but the program was just theoretical in November 2010 and fear of the unknown cost Democrats across the country their seats.
Tax reform may prove to be Republicans’ Obamacare. The GOP promises that their efforts will put more money in the pockets of middle class families and create massive economic growth. True or not, we won’t see any of that growth before the election next year and most analysts indicate that tax benefits to middle class will be mediocre and many households with incomes of $70,000 to $200,000 will actually pay more. The one group that will certainly benefit from tax reform is the one group that never really felt the impact of the Great Recession—the very rich.
Other problems just add to the GOP woes. It’s becoming increasing clear that members of Trump’s campaign team worked with the Russians during the 2016 race, even if Trump didn’t know about it (which is hard to believe). His son yesterday admitted to communicating with Wikileaks throughout the campaign and beyond. Kim Jung-Un of North Korea appears undeterred by Trump’s threatening and insulting tweets, leaving Asia increasingly unsettled.
A lot can happen in a year but Republicans have failed to capitalize on their power. Instead, they’ve spent time squabbling among themselves. The one piece of significant legislation that they might pass, tax reform, will leave people with as many questions as answers. They’re apparently counting Democrats’ dysfunction and internal strife to carry them to victory next year. That may work out, but they’ve sure squandered a hell of an opportunity.