Monday, October 13, 2008

What's Wrong with the Republican Camp

We’re a month out, and while you can’t call it yet, things aren’t looking so hot for John McCain. He was neck-and-neck with Barack Obama until the financial crisis hit, and when that kind of event happens, it pretty much guarantees success for the party not in office. You have to give Senator Obama some credit, but he shares it, at best equally, with the McCain campaign’s long list of failures, poor decisions, and terrible strategy. Don’t get too excited though, my list of what’s wrong with the policies of Barack Obama is much longer, and I still cast my vote for John McCain. But this column isn’t about the campaign.

I’ve worked for the Republican Party. I’ve voted for Republican candidates about 85% of the time. And yet this election makes me feel good about not being a registered Republican. In the spirit of Martin Luther, I want to post a list of the serious problems I’ve seen with Republicans. Don’t worry, I’m not going to pull out 99, but I do want to cover the top 8 (in no particular order).

1. They are out of touch with the next generation of Americans. The next generation of Americans is, by-and-large, out of touch with the reality of the world, but Republicans have reverted to the purist conservative judgment that says the status quo is to be defended at all costs. Change is needed, but in our present day political climate politicians lead from the rear, evidenced by decisions being made after polls mirroring the consensus view of those polls. The change that we need is someone that leads from the front. While Senator Obama is not a frontline leader, that’s no excuse for Republicans to not take the drivers seat of changing the status quo, which obviously needs tweaking.

2. They pick the wrong fights. The Republican base has been for the last 14 years Christians, but it is looking like a significant amount of Christians will be voting for Senator Obama. On the surface this makes no sense. Historically the two most important domestic issues for Christian voters have been abortion and gay marriage, yet Senator Obama is very liberal on both. We are seeing a changing of the guard among the Christian voting bloc, yet the Republicans continue to cling to a dated value set. Say what you will about sticking up for what you think is right, but these issues are not addressed by the federal government – they are largely reverted to the states, and the Republican President and Vice President nominees should not waste their efforts on issues they will likely not address when in office.

3. They give the ten word answer. My least favorite thing, when I writing speeches, is writing the second document with the 10 word answers to each of the target issues the speech addresses so that the speaker can cut to the crux. This is an incredibly complex nation and world, and 10 words do not provide a sufficient answer to any of the issues we face. The idea of having 10 words is that you can address every issue any voter might be concerned with. This is far less convincing and far less comforting than the 100 or 1000 word answers for the 10 most important issues.

4. Ignorance and indifference to the concerns and arguments of the opposition. Chanting “drill baby drill” distorts the virtues of drilling off the shores of America. Senator McCain has always said that he supports offshore drilling as a short-term measure to help us bridge the gap from where we are to the alternative energy future we need, but every time CNN shows footage of a John McCain rally with the crowd chanting “drill baby drill” it gives off the entirely wrong impression, and the opposition latches on to it to swing moderate and undecided voters in their direction. Be smart.

5. They vote for the wrong reasons. I’ve never chosen to not vote for a Democrat because he/she is a Democrat. I actually consulted for one Democratic campaign. Most Republicans vote party line because they like Republicans and hate Democrats. The amount of bad Republican politicians competes with the amount of bad Democratic politicians. When I attended a McCain/Palin rally I was encouraged to wear red to symbolize the desire to keep Missouri a red state. Putting aside the fact that I don’t like wearing red and don’t own a single piece of red clothing, I could care less that Missouri is a red state; I’d rather it be a smart state. The issue of voting is not about voting for a party but rather about voting for the best ideas, be they red, blue, or neon lime.

6. The idea embodied by Sarah Palin. I wrote an article on this blog not too long ago making a case for Sarah Palin, and I stick by the arguments I made. But she would be a less than stellar Vice President, not because of inexperience or policy specifics, but because she represents the idea, the mentality, that embracing the common denominator, the average Joe, is striving for greatness. This is not the mentality that made this country great. More than intelligence and education, we need leaders who allow for possibilities rather than shield us from them.

7. Two decades ago Republicans stood up and told the country that “Democrat” meant soft on crime, soft on the law, soft on education, soft on values, and soft on national security. And instead of standing up to this, the Democrats cowered in the corner and said, “Please, don’t hurt us.” Now, Democrats are saying that “Republican” means stupid, barbaric, and ignorant, and Republicans are running for the same corner of the house. These are salami tactics that should not be used in the first place and responded to with positive reinforcement of ideas and policies.

8. Swinging for the fences. It’s a sign of desperation, and no one sees it the way it’s wanted to be seen.

So there they are, the 8 things I find most discouraging about the Republican Party. In fact, you could remove the party slant and write almost the same article, the same 8 things, about what is wrong with the American political system. That would be even more depressing.

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