It’s Not the Rhetoric

Speaker John Boehner on March 7, 2013.Stephen Crowley/The New York TimesSpeaker John Boehner on March 7, 2013.

In his Monday morning column, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wondered rhetorically whether we had actually had an election last November, since the Republicans are still putting forward the ideas that voters rejected in 2012. Representative Paul Ryan, who was on the G.O.P.’s losing presidential ticket, is about to issue yet another draconian budget plan that would start the process of killing Medicaid and turning Medicare into a voucher program.

Sunday night, Roll Call published an interview with John Boehner, in which the speaker of the house answered Mr. Sargent’s question — we did have an election and the Republicans are oblivious to its results.

Mr. Boehner whined that holding an unshakeable majority in the House just doesn’t measure up to the “presidential bully pulpit.” As he put it, they only control half of one third of the federal government (which is odd, considering that he’s discounting the Supreme Court, on which the Republicans often seem to have a majority).

He conceded that “as a party, we need to do a better job of communicating and engaging with the American people.” But he quickly made it clear that what he means by that is finding ways to persuade the middle-class that Republican policies that will hurt their lives are actually beneficial to them.

Mr. Boehner added: “Our job as House Republicans is to put our principles into legislation, like the budget that we will vote on this month, and show how those solutions help families in our Congressional districts and around the country.”

“Our principles — things like freedom and responsibility — are eternal,” he said, as though President Obama and the Democrats don’t believe in either one, “but we’ve got to do a better job of articulating those principles.”

This is really nothing more than just the same old rebranding project that the Republicans have been pushing since last November, based on the presumption that voters have no idea what’s best for them. The party elders seem convinced that their problem is one of style. They don’t accept that voters heard them perfectly well and just rejected what they had to offer. But women voters, for example, didn’t misunderstand. They got that Republicans want to restrict abortion rights and access to birth control.

The Republicans’ problem is substantive, but it doesn’t look like they will ever take that in.

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