Politics Daily columnist David Corn says Republcians have a strategy for the 2010 election year: pushing the Obacalypse, the notion that President Obama's policies will ruin the country and drive us into a barely survivable state.
It's an idea Republicans have already been pushing, perhaps not in such explicit terms, but it's also not so surprising: Obama is trying to enact some big reforms, and once the GOP sets out to predict bad outcomes, they start to sound pretty hyperbolic. Here's how the National Republican Senatorial Committee describes health reform: a "massive government-run health care bill, which will lead to higher taxes, taxpayer-funded abortions, massive cuts to Medicare, and higher health care premiums for...families." The accuracy of this description is certainly up for debate--government dollars can't be used to pay for abortions, some premiums will go up, but coverage will cost less with subsidies--but if health reform weren't such a massive project, maybe Republicans wouldn't be using the word repeatedly.
It is fair to say that the Republican Party is being tugged to the right. With the party in the minority, conservatism has become a self-driven thing, willing to turn on the GOP establishment. It probably makes Republicans in D.C. nervous; conservatives have shown their willingness to support a third-party candidate, and there's a looming threat that credible Republican politicians will face brutal primary battles backed by conservative activists, FreedomWorks, and the Club for Growth.
There's no parallel pressure from moderates to tone down the messaging. The backlash over Sarah Palin's "death panels" claim is the only mitigating lesson on blowing out the putative effects of Obama's policies as far as humanly possible, and establishment Republicans will be left to gleefully and grimly warn that health care, cap-and-trade, and stimulus spending will mean the end of everything. (And who's to say it won't? If the movie 2012 taught us anything, it's that particles can start fluctuating at will.) In 2010, we won't yet know whether health reform will work as intended, so all these accusations will simply hang in the ether, untethered to verifiable fact.
But if Republicans don't strike those notes, the conservatives will be left a little disappointed, and that's not what the GOP wants right now.