Oh, not this again.
Congress returns to Washington this week with the Republican majorities in both chambers at risk and GOP leaders planning to turn the House and Senate into battlegrounds over which political party can best protect the country from terrorists and other security threats… No budget plan for 2007 will be completed. Promised relief for seniors struggling with their Medicare prescription-drug plans will have to wait. And up to eight of the 11 bills needed to fund the government will not be passed before the November elections.
This is a subject near and dear to me, this Pavlovian response of Republicans to electoral trouble, where they ditch actual legislation in favor of culture war (or in this case, "war" war) resolutions. The early summer bout of anti-gay marriage and anti-flag burning legislation bought the caucus exactly zero momentum. The lesson they took from this was "let's do it again, but bigger!"
I suppose red meat resolutions would help the GOP if their future depended on drubbing a bunch of Democrats in deep red districts. But it doesn't. The Republicans are playing defense; their best shots at picking off Democratic seats to offset their losses are in conservative districts (like John Spratt's in South Carolina) held by Democrats who will vote for these resolutions anyway, or in liberal states (Washington, Michigan) where the Democrats will get boosts by casting new anti-war votes. Republicans will be able to go back to their districts with trumpets blaring their new support of warrantless wiretapping, sure, but votes like this only work as negatives—if you can get candidate X to vote the wrong way and buy new ads claiming "Candidate X voted with Teddy Kennedy to turn your kids into jihadist homosexuals."
The GOP would make up a lot more ground if it took the Wall Street Journal's advice, particularly on an anti-eminent domain bill that would block federal money from going to local projects invoking ED. And I'm sure many of them will argue they're fronting this short-term nonsense to build a bigger majority that can make bigger changes. Well, what's wrong with the majority they have now? This is the behavior of the gambler who's up $50,000 and, instead of leaving the casino to spend it, puts all the chips on red.