The last election saw the Republican party beat down, cussed out, and given a wedgie by the electorate. And it was all well deserved. The party of the Contract with America became just like the party it had deposed. After the election, pundits spent a lot of energy and ink on what they need to do to return from the wasteland.
Did they listen? Signs suggest they might have done just that. The Republicans in Congress have worked hard to not just oppose but to counter-propose on just about every issue that's come up. They offered a different vision on the stimulus and on the budget and at least tried to have a conversation about the bailouts. Not that any of it had any impact.
Meanwhile some Republican governors have tried to highlight the difference in their approach to governing from the Washington Democrats by refusing at least some of the "stimulus" money offered to states. That's putting your money where your mouth is. And it will probably cost at least one of them his job.
Has it done any good? Not really. First, the media pays little attention to out-of-power Republicans. If their counter-proposals get no air time, they will be of little use. They're going to have to figure out a way to get their message out despite that. Of course, this is the age of the alternative media -- Fox, Drudge, blogs, twitter, etc; they should be able to make some headway, but they've got a lot of work to do.
Second, when they call the president or congressional Democrats on spending, the voters will rightly think them hypocrits. They are going to have to work very hard to earn back the people's trust -- or wait for the Dems to make such a mess of things that people are ready to vote for anyone who isn't a Democrat.
In the meantime, they should take every opportunity to remind the voters -- and the president -- of Mr. Obama's promises of bipartisanship. Of course it was just a campaign promise, but there are a lot of people who need to learn that Barack Obama is just another politician.
I give them a C+ for lots of effort with little results.