Aggravated. Disappointed. Frustrated.
In conversations with Minnesota Republicans, those words (plus a few more that are not printable) summarize feelings about the GOP following the budget standoff in Washington that left congressional Republicans not just on the losing side but lost.
From their starting position two weeks ago that the federal government defund Obamacare or face a shutdown and a refusal to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans kept pulling back from their demands, walked away with nothing — and showed the nation a lot of dirty laundry.
“If the party doesn’t get their act together very soon, I see the demise of the Republican Party,” said Chris Addington, a nurse from Baytown Township. “The people, their supporters, their voters, are getting tired of the Republican Party.”
Addington is a conservative who supports the cause of dismantling Obamacare and is passionate about reducing government spending and debt. She and other Republicans have noted that negotiation is a two-way street that they say Democrats, especially President Obama, never crossed.
Ed Griffin, an Edina businessman, cited the president’s “inability to get off his high horse and ask, ‘What isn’t working here?’ It just made everyone else more rigid.”
On the subject of Ted Cruz…
Less kind words he directs at Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas who started the shutdown ball rolling. “The mouth from Texas,” Griffin calls him. “I’m not even going to mention his name.”
Griffin, like the other Republicans interviewed, shares frustration that Republicans in Congress didn’t have a more sophisticated strategy to corner Democrats on fiscal issues that resonate with the general public. “We don’t want a tax-and-spend government,” he said. “We need to do something about long-term fiscal health. But you don’t do it by shutting government down.”
Jennifer Gumbel, an attorney from LeRoy, Minn., who identifies herself as “more in the John McCain side of the party,” said she fears that independents who might agree with Republicans are turned off by a “foolhardy” strategy. “Defunding Obamacare, it was so obviously a no-win situation,” she said.
That’s what puzzles Jennifer DeJournett, president of the Minnesota group Voices of Conservative Women that works to elect female candidates with conservative economic leanings. “What’s your plan? Does your team agree on the path to get there?” she asked of the House Republicans’ recent strategy. “The everyday mom wonders what was accomplished.”
Even Chris Fields, secretary of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said: “I didn’t like the tactics. I personally wouldn’t have chosen Obamacare because Obama would never sign any changes.” He maintains that “Americans will take a look at what they’re getting [with Obamacare] and what they’re giving up, and they will make the decisions to relieve the impact.”
Fields defended the goal of Republican battle positions. “Both political parties are going to promote the policies that their supporters care about,” he said. “Democrats are trying to repeal sequester, and that’s the law, too.”
Next year’s elections
Equally concerning to local Republicans is how the shutdown strategy will affect next year’s elections.
Addington: “I’m still a conservative Republican, but I’m going to be even more careful about who I vote for.”
Fields: “In 2014, voters are going to take a look at the candidates and voters are going to look for an independent streak.”
Gumbel: “I think we will be in a weakened position in the next few elections.”
DeJournett: “The other side is taking advantage of the vacuum.”
Veteran GOP operative Michael Brodkorb on politics.mn, summed it up this way: “From the standpoint of posturing to win in 2014, this two week exercise has been nothing more than a circle firing squad.”
Gumbel didn’t need a metaphor to encapsulate her irritation. “The public,” she said, “thinks we are the crazies.”