Three storms threaten the Republican Convention: one real, the other two figurative. As Tropical Storm Isaac barrels toward New Orleans along a trajectory that leaves Tampa, Fla., drenched but not in the direct line of fire, Republicans nonetheless have to deal with an even worse prospect: Isaac’s approach to New Orleans raises the specter of Hurricane Katrina and revives bitter memories of President’s Bush failure. The Republican disdain for government was apparent and most evidently dangerous in the cold-hearted and grossly incompetent response from the Bush White House in a time of public crisis. The recollection of that will cast the Republicans once again in an intensely unfavorable light.
The second cloud is the right-wing social agenda that the GOP has put front and center in their platform. I called into a radio show hosted by Geraldo Rivera today and had an impromptu debate with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. He tried to focus on the economy exclusively, referring to the Republican social agenda as essentially irrelevant to most voters. I think it is fair to say that issues of choice and immigration are not minor for many Americans—nor should they be. The Republicans are trying to dismiss extreme positions they have embraced, but make no mistake, this is a Todd Akin/Sheriff Joe Arpaio platform. These positions will accentuate the difficulty the Republicans have with many women and Latino voters in particular.
The third cloud is the most serious for them. When it comes to the federal budget and the economy, the Republicans have embraced VP nominee Paul Ryan, as did Johnson in our debate. He tried to present the Ryan budget as a serious effort to confront the issues ahead. But the Ryan budget is flim-flam, nothing more than an unsubstantiated rehash of the George W. Bush economic model that brought no good at all.
I wish the Republicans a jolly good time in Tampa—any political party can be fun—but their agenda for the nation is bleak and gloomy and darkened by the actual storm clouds swirling around them.