Danger ahead for the GOP -- Opinion Focus with Eugene Robinson

Dec 28, 2010

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson discusses his recent columns and the latest news.

Read today's column Danger ahead for the GOP in which Gene writes: "It's been not quite two months since Republicans won a sweeping midterm victory, and already they seem divided, embattled and - not to mince words - freaked out. For good reason, I might add."

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our last roundtable of 2010. Once again, I should have followed my instincts and traveled with the president to Hawaii -- not because of anything newsworthy that's happening on the beach, but simply to get out of this icebox. The blizzard spared Washington, but it's still entirely too cold for human habitation. As usual, everything's on the table for discussion. Let's begin.

I quite agree with your analysis and with your take on the House. I'm encouraged by your comment that Nancy Pelosi - an extremely compentent lady who has done us proud - will be able to extract concessions from the House Republicans. That said, how do you expect her to be able to do it given that the Democratic minority is relatively small and the party with the majority in the House is able to do what it wants? (Additionally, while the Tea Partiers will certainly make a difference to party cohesion even in the House, the Republicans have been able to force party loyalty pretty well for a while now.)

Pelosi will have leverage when Boehner needs to get something passed and the GOP caucus is balking -- raising the debt ceiling, for example, and some spending bills. And Boehner seems clearly worried about keeping the Tea Party types in line, so I have to assume there's genuine reason for him to fret. For most legislation, though, you're right: The minority in the House is basically along for the ride.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful commentary over the past year. It seems to me the legislative battle will be in the Senate, and those Republican senators up for re-election will wield authority based solely on what's best for them rather than the country; further, the popularity contests that are presidential primaries will shape the rhetorical narrative Republicans will have to adopt, rather than what's good for the country. The newly-minted moderates may be forced to acquiesce to hot rhetoric for their or their party's survival, and those firmly in with the right wing will only emote at a higher level. What's your opinion?

I view things a bit differently. We've seen the first stirrings of life from moderate Senate Republicans in a long while. As Scott Brown has demonstrated, you can't go but so far to the right and hope to be reelected in Massachusetts. The Senate has shown that it will deal with President Obama. My question is how the new GOP majority in the House decides to play its hand. I think it's risky for John Boehner to adopt a position of total intransigence. 

This was an open conversation where the president was able to intelligently answer and de bunk the right wing noise in front of everyone. In my opinion, one of his strongest days this year. Why not do this on every big issue next year? He can hold his own, and the Gop can try to debate their side, plus the public can see it first hand, before the media spin. Thanks Eugene. Geoff

The White House is itching for more such encounters. Republicans are not. 

Gene, How long do you think it will take for the Freshman Tea Party Republicans to get the fact that their purity won't survive the House of Representatives? They won't be able to cut what they want to cut and undo legislation because the President has his big Veto pen stick.

That reality will sink in pretty soon. But then what? Spend two years tilting at windmills? Is that what voters want?

Gene- By encouraging dependence on government programs and discouraging self reliance, liberals promote an agenda that deliberately keeps minorities down. It is depraved vote mongering. How can you in good conscience support such morally bankrupt policies?

Dang, I thought I'd make it through 2010 without being called "depraved." Maybe next year.

What do you see as the long-term prognosis for the Republican Party? Will they be the modern-day Whigs? Considering their anti-science bias, will they be the Know- Nothings?

The long-term problem that Republicans need to solve is that Latinos, African-Americans and Asians consistently vote against them by large margins. Before 2050, there will be no racial or ethnic majority in this country. If the GOP doesn't find ways to attract minority voters, it will go the way of the Whigs.

Do you think that Speaker Boehner will be able to exercise enough control of the tea party caucus to keep them from basically destroying legislation that is necessary to keep the government running?

I think he'll have a real struggle. And I think that on some votes, he'll need Democrats to come to the rescue. 

Isn't the cheerleading about the President's legislative "victories" a bit much? After all, there was not any serious opposition to DADT reform or the New START treaty and more importantly, most Americans could not care less about either issue.

Um, I think you must have missed part of the movie. The part when John McCain tried to drive a stake through the heart of DADT repeal, the part when Jon Kyl tried to smother New START... 

Ok, so I'm more of a dog-lover than a football fan, but even allowing for that - what was Obama thinking? Couldn't he have waited just a little bit to find someone more "acceptable" as an example of the need for a second chance? A nice generic thief or scam artist? (It's not the topic of the day, I know, but nobody else wants to talk to us any more.)

I'm both a dog lover and a football fan. I confess I don't understand why this is a big deal, or any kind of deal. The Philadelphia Eagles hired Vick not because of some desire to give him a second chance, but because they thought he could win football games, fill stadium seats and draw television ratings. Which he has done. The plight of ex-offenders is an interesting issue, but it has to do with average ex-cons -- two-bit crack dealers, petty thieves -- rather than a rich, spoiled, supremely talented football player who is thrilling to watch. 

I'm guessing this guy paves his own roads and takes his own garbage to the landfill weekly, and home schools, huh?

I guess so. I wonder what he does when he takes an airline flight? I mean, who does the air traffic control?

I cringed as I read Michael Gerson's opinion article this morning. I'm afraid President Obama might just gobble it up because of the promise of bipartisanship. I'd appreciate your comments on the issue. I, for one, may not support our president in 2012 if this is how the next two years play out.

That was an interesting column. I hope the president doesn't start with Social Security; there's no real crisis, and any benefit that accrued from demonstrating bipartisanship would be outweighed by the political damage from disheartening the progressive Democratic base and freaking seniors out. In my opinion. I thought Gerson's analysis of the perils of trying to restructure the tax system, though, was quite interesting.

Do you agree with Ed Rendell that it was a bunch of wusses that canceled Sunday Night's Eagles-Vikings game? I mean, the late Vikings coach Bud Grant (who wouldn't even allow his players to have sidelines heaters) must be spinning in his grave over this decision!

I do agree with Rendell. I thought part of the deal with football is that the game is sometimes played in bad weather. I mean, we're talking Philadelphia, where the fans once booed Santa Claus. They could have handled a bit of snow.

I have learned much from your frequent commentary on MSNBC. Thank you! Q: Aside from the most egregious comments from Barbour, do you have hopes that the next two years will show progress addressing the immigration and thereby racial issues? We live in Arizona and have seen the issues used to basically destroy any dialogue in the state. Russell Pierce (our ex-cop mouthoff expert) thinks he is now free to 'govern' given the mandate he thinks he gave Governor Brewer with the passing of his seemingly unconstitutional bill 1070. She is clueless I believe. I have little hope for any positive racial progress here and worry that the same sort of narrow viewpoint nationally may doom any progress in the next two years in our country. Charles Wallace Glendale, AZ

The issues of race and immigration are more acute in Arizona than in most of the rest of the country. So I hope your pessimism is misplaced -- and I hope the good people of your state find ways to work around the likes of Jan Brewer and Russell Pierce.

The only thing Bud Grant is spinning is a fishing reel. He's very much alive.


So, since you are answering questions that stray from your column, what do you think about the civil war revisionists? I don't understand how someone could blantantly try to rewrite history that's written for all to see and that people would believe it.

Don't get me started. The revisionism about the Civil War and the civil rights movement makes me crazy. Or crazier. 

Do you think the G.O.P. is worried about newly elected Conservatives like Rand Paul being exposed to a National audience instead of the controlled environment they kept him limited to? Personally I have been waiting a long time for the majority of America to see the kind of people Sarah Palin and the Tea Party support. Thank You.

I'm looking forward to the spectacle, I really am. 

Will the next two years leading up to the 2012 election be a game for Repubs and Dems of hot potato in terms of who the public believes is in charge of governance? We already heard Gibbs say this week the Republicans will be held accountable for governing and the Republicans retort will be Dems control the Senate and have Obama in the White House.

The good news is that the game of hot potato won't work. Both parties will be held accountable, no matter how much finger-pointing they do.

No comment today. Just good will for all.

And with that, my time is up for today -- and this year. Happy New Year to all, thanks for making this weekly discussion such a success, and please let's do it again in 2011. 

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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