What are establishment Republicans so afraid of? Why are they so convinced that if they stand up to Obama -- even on issues the public agrees with them on -- they will be spanked at the ballot box?
Playing it safe sure has paid big dividends, huh? Every time we've had a fight over a budget ceiling or a continuing resolution, the establishment has told us we must not allow the government to shut down because Republicans would be blamed for it. The actual facts of the particular situation don't matter -- even if the Republicans' position is justified, defensible or over an issue that aligns them with the electorate. The establishment has decreed that we couldn't possibly, ever, come out on top in such a battle.
It's been a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can we prevail when we've announced in advance that we can't? How can we conceivably win over the public when we concede defeat before the battle begins?
Why is it automatically assumed that in every such impasse, Republicans will be blamed instead of Obama? Is it not true that his profligate spending is unpopular with the majority? That Obamacare consistently polls poorly? That the economy remains stagnant?
"We have to keep our eye on the big ball," they would say. "The 2012 elections are everything, and we'll lose if we always appear as the party of 'no.'"
Well, last time I checked, we got our clocks cleaned in 2012 after following this timid blueprint. Mitt Romney had Obama on the ropes in the first debate and refused to go in for the kill on Benghazi and other issues. He may as well have tendered his forfeiture right then and there.
Contrary to establishment "wisdom," Republicans win elections when they contrast themselves with Democrats, not emulate them. You can't inspire voters if you don't offer them a different, superior vision.
Recently, unnamed GOP strategists warned that unless Republicans quit going negative on Obama, they'll go down in flames in 2014 and possibly even lose their congressional majority. We cannot take the House for granted, they say.
In the first place, any political strategist who says Republicans can ever take any race for granted, given the liberal national media and the Democrats' proficiency at propaganda, ought to be fired. We must always run as though everything is on the line and assume nothing.
But how about this theory that criticizing Obama is toxic and politically suicidal? How do people impregnated with such defeatism gravitate toward a profession that is all about winning? Do Democrats ever hold back their criticism of Republicans? Are they ever shy about lambasting Republicans as extremists and evil?
What makes our Beltway guys think they can compete with gloves on when the other side not only sheds the gloves but carries knives and guns? This is madness. This is maddening.
Moreover, to say that Republicans must decide whether to criticize Obama or to present an alternative agenda is giving a false choice. You can't separate the two. We can't possibly make the case for our own agenda unless we focus the high beams on the utter failures of Obama's policies, his lawlessness, his divisiveness and his virtual despotism.
What's the point of presenting an alternative to Obamacare, for example, if we don't spell out to the public just how horrendous this law is? What's the point of offering a pro-market, pro-growth agenda if we don't point out how terrible Obama's economy is and then tie Obama and his policies to it?
With all due respect to those who say the public is already aware of Obama's failures, where are you getting your information? He continues to have respectable approval numbers even though the public is largely opposed to his agenda. Our feckless, uncommunicative, unmotivated side hasn't made the case against him.
Nor is making a strong case against Obama's record "dirty campaigning." How silly. We have a duty to showcase his failures -- unless we don't really believe he or his policies are the culprit. But if anyone is so deceived, it's time for him to come out of the closet and go to the other side, where he belongs.
I read recently about how House Speaker John Boehner declined to state his position on immigration, saying he views himself as "a facilitator." Are you kidding me? He is supposed to be the GOP leader, not a mediator. National politics is an adversarial process, especially these days, and if our side holds back while the other side pushes the pedal to the floorboard, we'll get run over.
Come on, guys, take off your pocket protectors and put on your fighting gear. Quit spending all your time calculating, strategizing, number crunching and hand-wringing. Let's just start doing the right thing -- standing for the right things, communicating our message and calling Obama out without pulling punches -- and inspire voters to vote for us. Our prescriptions work, so let's quit acting ashamed of them.
David Limbaugh, brother of radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, is an expert in law and politics and author of new book Crimes Against Liberty, the definitive chronicle of Barack Obama's devastating term in office so far.