When it comes to predictions, I have, ahem, a mixed record.
I got 2010 right very early on, arguing late in the summer of 2009 that the Tea Party Movement was a portent and that, if the Republicans even pretended to get on board, they would sweep in November, 2010—which they did, taking the House and doing better at the state and local level than they had done at any time since 1928.
Buoyed by my success on that occasion, when Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, I set aside my doubts as to whether the proud father of Romneycare could successfully run against the proud father of its offspring Obamacare, and I persuaded myself that the Republicans would capitalize on the same trends that were so evident in 2010.
As some of you will remember, this time I got it wrong. I should have taken to heart the observation of that great philosopher Yogi Berra, who once remarked, “You can predict everything . . . except the future.”
With Berra’s words as a warning, I will turn to the New Year.
If you read the liberal press—and as a penance for my many sins, I do consult it—you will discover that the left-liberal flacks who make a living by posing as journalists are itching to depict Barack Obama as the comeback kid. The troubles with the Obamacare rollout will soon be behind us, they say, and more and more Americans will realize what is in it for them.
I think that they are right in a way, but not in the way they have in mind. As their old insurance gets canceled or proves, thanks to Obamacare, to be no longer available, more and more Americans really will realize what was buried in the bill for them. That is, they will realize that the designers of Obamacare had it in for them, and their anger will grow. It will not abate. Medicare Advantage has been gutted, and the elderly will be furious. Millions will have lost the insurance that they had, and they will not be pleased. Some will find the exchanges impossible to navigate. Others will find that they have to pay through the nose for coverage inferior to what they had before, and many more will discover that they cannot keep their physicians and that they no longer have access to better hospitals and clinics.
And this is just the beginning. For millions more will learn in the course of the year that the insurance formerly offered by their employers will no longer be available for them in 2015. Short of starting a war with, say, Iran, Barack Obama and the sycophants in the press who do his publicity for him will not be able to divert the attention of ordinary Americans from what he has done to them.
What this suggests is that the Republicans will have an opportunity in 2014 comparable to the one they capitalized on in 2010. Moreover, what they need to do to win and win big is a no-brainer. Almost all that they really have to do is to nationalize every single race for the House or Senate by running a version of this advertisement in every corner of this nation:
There are only two things that can go wrong. First, if they lack the requisite wit and ruthlessness— and let’s face it, when it comes to political combat, the Republicans usually do—they can drop the ball and fail to nationalize the local elections.
That is what happened in 2010 in the Senatorial contests. That year, John Boehner took a page from Newt Gingrich’s playbook and got the House candidates to issue an imitation of the Contract with America. Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership in the Senate did nothing of the sort—and, at a time when the Republicans were vastly increasing their strength in the House and gaining control of governorships and legislatures throughout the land, they failed to take the Senate. This could easily happen again.
That is one problem. There is another. The Republican establishment is intent on reining in the Tea Party Movement.
I have been and am still an admirer of John Boehner and of Mitch McConnell. Boehner managed to take the House in 2010 by rallying his troops behind a common platform. Some of the troubles he has faced since are of his own making, but for the most part, given the serious difficulties he has faced, he has handled himself well. One can chastise McConnell for not doing what Boehner did in 2010, as I just did, but one must also admire him for one great accomplishment: He managed to unite the Republican Senators against Obamacare. That cannot have been easy. It is not often that anyone gets John McCain to do the right thing with regard to domestic matters, and John McCain was by no means the only Republican senator who was more comfortable with the opposition than with his own party. Everything good that has happened in recent years flows from what Boehner and McConnell did in 2009 and 2010.
That having been said, their decision—and that of the Republican establishment more generally—to go to war against the Tea Party in the primaries is folly of the first order. The Tea-Party impulse was the only reason why the Republicans made a dramatic comeback in 2010. It is the only reason why they have a shot at taking the senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016. It was the Tea Party rebellion of 2009 that caused the Republicans in both houses of Congress to unite against Obamacare. Boehner and McConnell need to figure out how to exploit and discipline that impulse.
In Nebraska, for example, McConnell ought to be quietly lending support to Ben Sasse, President of Midland University, who is as sharp a mind as one is likely to find in those parts. A native of Nebraska, a graduate of Harvard, the author of a prize-winning dissertation in history at Yale, he has worked with the Boston Consulting Group, he has done a stint in the Department of Justice, and he was assistant secretary of Health and Human Services. I know him. I like him. I respect him — and I have no doubt that, as a Senator, he would do the right thing.
In Alaska, he ought to be quietly doing what he can to secure the Republican nomination for Mead Treadwell. A graduate of Yale University—where, in my days as a graduate student, I knew him well—Mead is armed with an MBA from Harvard. He worked for years in Alaska with and for Wally Hickel. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he took charge of spill response for the city of Cordova. For a time he was Deputy Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and, since 2010, he has been Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. He won election by a twenty-point margin. He is a fine, fine man. He can beat Mark Begich, and he ought to be awarded the Republican nomination.
I cannot say what will happen in November, 2014. I can only say that the Republicans have it in their power to produce a wave election. And they have it in their power as well to snatch defeat once again from the jaws of victory. In the last couple of months, Boehner and McConnell have contributed in no small way to splitting the Republican Party. Their aim should be to unite all Republicans and a great many who are outside Republican ranks behind conservative Republican candidates like Sasse and Treadwell.
In November, 2014, Boehner and McConnell both should unite the nominees of their party behind a new Contract with America.
To that end, let me suggest that the Republican establishment put immigration reform on the back burner. I am myself a softie on immigration. I glory in the diversity I find here in Silicon Valley, and I have no doubt that the astonishing prosperity evident here is rooted in that diversity. I do not believe that the illegal aliens present today in the United States will ever leave. I believe that we need to accommodate them, and, in 2012, I defended what Rick Perry and the Republicans in Texas have done along those lines. But there is one thing that I am sure of—that the passage of immigration reform in 2014 will help the Democrats and do untold harm to the Republicans. In 2012, the candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination—Mitt Romney, foremost—did themselves and their party great harm by discussing illegal aliens in the way they did. I sympathize with those in the party who think that it must get past that. But 2014 is not the time, and the bill passed by the Senate in 2013 (with the support of John McCain, let me add) is a travesty—one thousand pages in length. The year 2014 is the year in which John Boehner should quietly bury it. If the Republicans take the Senate in 2014, the Republicans can come up with their own bill. And if Barack Obama is prepared to veto it, he will make their day.