Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What the Republicans Should be Doing

If I listened long enough to you
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe
                         -from Reason to Believe, a song by Tim Hardin

Ronald Reagan was president during most of my formative years. I freely admit to admiring him as the Gipper. I came from a household of Reagan Democrats, though I didn't know that then. I really didn't know much about politics as a kid. It was not common dinner conversation in my house, and I was blissfully ignorant of the differences between Democrats and Republicans. It wasn't until the Iran-Contra hearings that I started paying attention. I remember watching Oliver North give days of testimony on TV, knowing that some bad stuff went down on Reagan's watch, then seeing the 40th President of the United States in the hot seat repeating his "I don't recall" mantra. Of course, knowing he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, that may have been true. Still I have never been a Reagan hater. I always liked the man as well as his successor, GHW Bush. I turned 18 during the first Bush presidency, though when I cast my first ballot in a presidential election it was for Bill Clinton. Of course during Clinton's presidency I was again enraptured with congressional hearings—this time not of arms for hostages, but discussions of what happened under the president's desk when the First Lady wasn't looking….proving to me once and for all that there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans and solidifying my status as an independent. Both sides are equally ready to screw with the other in order to be the dominant party. Throwing each other under the bus is just par for the course.

So here we are again, fourteen years after discussions of stained dresses and alternate uses for stogies, the RNC convention is going on in Tampa, Florida while the world watches; Mitt Romney has ascended to clench the top spot to run against the incumbent Democrat, Barack Obama for President of the United States. The economy is slowly returning after years of being beat to a pulp by the previous president, GW Bush, who famously thought the way to national prosperity was to remove regulation in order to allow business to flourish. Of course, what instead happens when regulations are removed is business will run rough-shod over the economy hoovering up every last dollar from every unattended wallet until businesses are fat and people are broke. Perhaps that was the intention. The Democrats would say it was. Romney is promising to undo everything President Obama has done if elected in order to "bring back the middle class," clearly missing the point. Obama is promising to continue trying to reinstate regulations in order to slowly pull money back out of the clenched fists of corporate interests and the crazy-wealthy in order to rebalance the distribution of wealth and reinvigorate the middle class.

There's only one problem with the promises of the candidates, only one of them is believable. President Obama has been doing what he says he's going to do. Mitt Romney's only experience as a public leader was as Governor of Massachusetts where he famously did at the state level most of what Mr. Obama has done as president, and now he's got to profess that he'll do the opposite if elected in order to make the constituents of GOP happy. He's not believable. The rank and file Republicans know this, but they are lining up behind Mr. Romney anyway under the assumption that, as a Republican, Mr. Romney will surely be better than what we have now. The only problem with that is there is no proof: no proof at all that the former Governor of Massachusetts will actually be effective as a leader. All he's done so far is impugn his own credibility by running away from his accomplishments in order to get the Republican nod. In other words, he appears to be a desperate man who will do or say anything to become president. And now that he's done/said what is required to become the Republican nominee, he is going to try to do that in the general election. The Republicans have a problem, and his name is Mitt Romney.

Of course, they could have elected to circle their wagons around Ron Paul, but the problem with Ron Paul is he is incorruptible. He will not say anything to be elected. He is willing to speak what he considers to be the hard truth, and no one wants that. Mind you, I do not agree with Mr. Paul on a lot of things, but I do believe he's a man of integrity. Mitt Romney clearly is not. And now the Republican party has even changed the rules of the convention to push Ron Paul out of any possible contention. If they did that the year Abraham Lincoln was nominated, we would have had a different 16th president. The Civil War may have had a different outcome (or never happened at all). The Republican Party should have let the rules be and should have played by them. Of course, the uncertainty of doing so was likely more than they could bear. The Grand Old Party has now shown itself to be spineless. I'm disappointed.

I think they need some help. I think they need some advice. I think they need to return to their core values as a party. Here's my advice to the GOP. Stop it. Stop ignoring fact. Stop pandering to religious interests. Stop listening to the ramblings of all those drooling, unstable Tea Party types. Stop being so stubborn. Admit it, there sometimes is good reason to raise taxes. Ronald Reagan knew that. He raised taxes. George HW Bush knew that, even after saying, "Read my lips: no new taxes," he was convinced he made a mistake by saying that and raised taxes. Of course, that very fact was one of the main reasons he was not re-elected, but it was a risk he was willing to take as an honorable patriot. The Republicans could use a few more like him.

My main bit of advice to the Republicans though, is to forget this election. Mitt Romney has already lost. Unless President Obama makes some dastardly error, Mitt Romney's dreams of becoming the next president are hopeless. The Republicans should concentrate their efforts on maintaining their majority in Congress and retaking the Senate. Don't waste another minute or dollar trying to get Mitt, whom the Republicans are lukewarm about anyway, elected. Line up behind the Republican congressional candidates and try to continue doing what has been done for the last two years, which is to say disrupt Washington, and ruin any chances Barack Obama has of being remembered by history as a great president. Actually, I was being a bit facetious with that last bit. If the Republicans do receive another chance to lead the congress, they should seize that opportunity to start forging compromise with the Democrats. As long as we are divided, the people of the United States are the one's who lose. One of the reasons Reagan was a successful president despite his troubles is because he worked with the Democrats when push came to shove. He didn't just disagree with them on principle. The current crop of Republican legislators will not do anything the President would like because they don't like him and don't want to see any success on his watch. Stop that too. It's not patriotic to be obstructionist for political purposes. Ron Paul has the right idea: speak the truth as you see it, even if it's an unpopular truth. If more candidates did that, our country would be better for it.

Finally, a bit of advice to the victors of this election, whether Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or otherwise: you are being entrusted with the People's work. This is a sacred trust. Do well by us, or we'll vote your ass back out. We're sick of lying politicians. Don't be one. Learn to get along with each other. Your predecessors did it. You can too. If you can't figure it out, we will find someone who can. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Dave.
    Ron Paul may have some crazy ideas (like turning America into a libertarian paradise like Somalia), but I agree that he has the courage and consistency of his convictions. He recently defended Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, for example, which is considered political kryptonite for members of both major parties. It's a travesty of justice that he was not allowed his due in state conventions and the RNC, where his smart delegates *used the rules* to get him included there.
    Yes, the old Republican party was able to compromise, and this was something that appealed to the American people. Americans want solutions. I fear that that Republican party is gone, and may not pay attention to your sage advice, however.
    (An aside: I do blame Reagan for the change in tone of modern politics, though, and for beginning to make people feel disconnected from any idea that government could be a source of good in people's lives. He also began to make "liberal" a dirty word, and begin the reverse jujitsu of making the party of the New Deal and the forty hour work week out to be evil losers. The mainstream media began to also reflect this thinking right around this time with their writers and commentators by beginning to treat liberal thinking as weak and immature.)
    Deregulation of communications, and deregulation of corporate money in elections is strangling our democracy, and enabling the Republican Party to be less likely to compromise, IMO.
    The drivers for the Republicans to publicly embrace the fringe in their party (consider Eisenhower's words about those who wished to do away with Social Security) seem to relate to the plutocrats who have taken over the Republican Party. The same very wealthy people have managed to build up a very effective right wing media that serves as an echo chamber for their interests over the last forty years, and built up a fan base that turns to them to have their fears relieved and their beliefs reaffirmed. Very clever. A composite of a "good Republican" seems to have been formed that, among other things, also happens to serve the interests of the wealthy (anti-labor, anti-climate change, anti-education, pro-war/defense). And it would appear that an attitude of unflinching adherence to these ideals is also part of the ideal reinforced by the conservative media. My point is that it makes compromise less and less likely for a conservative movement that has begun to see itself as a team needing to win with an almost a religious ferocity.
    I am deeply disappointed in the Democrats, too, who have had some weak leadership, and some candidates willing to go wherever the wind was blowing that day. They need to take back the idea that government can be a force for good, IMO, and stick with it. It's true that I am a partisan, although less so over time, but my take on the read on many Independent voters (for lack of a better moniker) is that they want a candidate who stands for something, and has integrity people can count on no matter what. My take on the election of Obama in 2008 was that enough people were ready for progressive, Roosevelt-style leadership, and for someone who really *believed* in helping ordinary Americans after the Bush years. Independents were willing to give him a chance. I am curious about how the Obama presidency has been spun in the minds of those same voters now.

    One point about conservatives not liking their candidate: It doesn't matter if Romney is an unpopular candidate if you game the electoral system. Look at what is happening in the Republican controlled swing states right now, especially Florida. The R's just have to turn out their base, and keep the others away. Also look at the money that Crossroads GPS and other Super PAC's are starting to dole out. I would not dismiss Romney just yet. Elections can be bought, and elections can be stolen. We've seen both in the US, and it can happen here again, too.
    Sorry for the long post. Hope you keep on writing the commentaries!