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Sunday
Oct182009

It's Time for the GOP to Do Something Bold

There is much buzz about the expected gains the Republicans will see in the 2010 midterm elections.  Political analyst Larry Sabato, for example, predicts Republicans will gain between 15 and 40 seats in the House.  Though the gains for Republicans are likely to be substantial, as Newt Gingrich has pointed out, Republicans have yet to see the polling results one might expect given the national mood with regard to the Democrats. "People are more frightened than they were in '93 and '94 -- both by the radicalism of the administration and by the economy," Gingrich told the Washington Post, but "they're more skeptical of Republicans than they were in '93 and '94.”

Assuming Gingrich is right, it is fitting to ask why the populace is skeptical of Republicans.  For one, Republicans have done little in recent years to differentiate themselves from Democrats.  Republicans have branded Democrats as big spending liberals for years.  But after watching George W. Bush and the Republican Congress pass a prescription drug benefit with a 10 year 1.2 trillion dollar price tag,  who can blame the average voter for rolling his eyes when a Republican rails against the deficit? 

There is another, less-considered reason why voters do not trust Republicans to lead the country.  Republicans are passive.  Though they aggressively argue against the policies of the Democrats, they fail to aggressively push an alternative vision.  Though they have alternative policies, they fail to display an alternative philosophy. Republicans, instead of speaking the truth boldly—admitting that government cannot solve all problems—are left waiting for Democrats to stumble in their attempt to do so.  In the meantime, Republicans tout a brand of slow-bleed “compassionate conservatism” that makes them appear as utopian as their opponents.

All experienced athletes know the surest way to lose a game is to play as if you’re worried to lose it.  For this reason, various teams have adopted the motto “Play to Win”.  Instead of playing to win, Republicans play not to lose.  As a result, ideas are stifled, boldness is crushed, and meekness rewarded.

“This is the nature of politics,” one might respond.  But it doesn’t have to be.  There must be a way to give up shy and passive politics and start being bold.   Of course, any bold moves come at a cost.  Try for example to make an argument against the Department of Education and wait—not long—for the press release claiming you are “against education”.  Mindless pundits and late night bomb throwers are waiting to pounce on any conservative who speaks the truth. 

If one is to be bold, one needs also to be ready for a fight.  No more stirring emotions and ignoring the mind. Republicans must be ready with facts and straightforward reasoning. They must be prepared with the philosophical understanding needed to defend those policies that appear heartless at first glance.  They must understand fully the principles of limited government and free market capitalism and argue vehemently for them.

The political consultants inside the beltway will of course think this approach awful.  Why, when the Democrats are digging their own grave, would we open ourselves up for attack? “Let them fall on their own swords,” they’ll say. This might be accurate, from a short-term standpoint.  But this is playing not to lose.  Only a party that actively differentiates itself from the other side will determine its own destiny.  Otherwise, the political winds will determine who is in power. The party that governs least will be the one that governs most. 

If we again consider the 1994 mid-term elections, the sweep Gingrich oversaw was not only the result of a backlash against the Clintons.  It was also a result of the boldness of the Contract with America.  It was in that document that voters were able to see a clear distinction between Republicans and Democrats.  It was the boldness and leadership of Gingrich and others who swept the Republicans into power.  If the current Republican leaders want to do the same, they best stop watching Pelosi’s collapse and start planning their own revival.   

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Reader Comments (2)

The ugly reality is both the Democratic and Republican parties are full of self-loving aristocrat's who will sell their souls to the devil.

Neither party cares a wit about Constitutional checks and balances.

Neither party cares a wit about serving the people but rather serve themselves.

Neither party has a single person who is both intelligent and moral.

Real statesmen are no longer among us.

October 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Elaine, your angst is understandable. But we should be careful not to become apathetic.

November 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterJohn Prothro

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