GOP should show it deserves to win

Letting the Democrats implode may work as an electoral strategy, but the voters deserve more

August 15, 2010|By Douglas MacKinnon

For the next two-plus months, the daily and even hourly parlor game of the cable, radio and print political pundits — as well as those who inhabit the far left and far right of our increasingly irrelevant political parties — will be to breathlessly ask: "Can the Republicans win back Congress?"

As many Americans come to the shocking realization that despite having played by the rules and worked as hard as they possibly could, their children might very well have a worse quality of life, the better question is: "Do the Republicans deserve to win back Congress?" Certainly for me, as an independent conservative, that is the more pressing issue.

With papers to sell, ratings points at stake and fellow pundits to impress, the horserace story regarding the GOP making a move on the inside rail is going to continue ad nauseam. Fine. Though if we stop to realize that the average audience for a political cable show is about 1 million people, more than 99 percent of the nation is keeping itself out of range of the fire-breathing rhetoric.

That is not to say that we can't learn something from the cable or talk shows. The problem for the vast majority of Americans is the business model the shows or host networks have adopted. Some produce content for a center-right or far-right audience while others produce content for a center-left or far-left audience. As such, they — as well as a number of publications — often frame the debate in terms such as, "Why we have to stop Obama's Socialist agenda," or "If the Republicans retake Congress, they will only reward the ultra-rich and evil corporations."

While this might appeal to a minority of voters, most citizens want and need more nuanced debate. In the post-Sept. 11 world we all inhabit, and as they watch the American Dream dissolve before their eyes, they are basically begging to be treated as adults and for their "leaders" to crawl out of the sandbox and speak to their issues for a change.

With regard to the coming midterm election in November, there are two basic schools of thought on what the GOP should do to win back Congress or at least the House of Representatives. Strategy No. 1, as outlined by Rush Limbaugh and others, is for the GOP to do absolutely nothing. Just sit back, stay silent, and watch the Democrats in Congress self-destruct.

While Mr. Limbaugh is a favorite target of the left and a regular guest in their frothing fundraising letters, I happen to think he has an exceptional political mind. Of course, foolish me. I come to that conclusion from actually listening to the man.

That said, I think Rush is wrong in this case. Not because his strategy is flawed. To do nothing and offer up no solutions as the Democrats fall into their own traps and run from their own president may very well prove to be a winning formula. But, as someone who has to live in this country and realizes that as we work and sleep, terrorists are planning their next attack, I'd really like the only other team we have to offer us something besides, "The Democrats stink."

To be sure, if the GOP can win back the House (far from a sure thing with a very unpredictable electorate) there will be change around the margins. They will argue to roll back Obamacare, ramp up the debate of "global warming" vs. job creation, speak to the dangers of illegal immigration, and pretend to shrink government.

Sadly, it's basically too late for my preferred school of thought, which would be to pry any substantive solutions out of the GOP before the midterm. Ignorance in this case is far from bliss. It's outright dangerous and irresponsible.

As citizens, we have every right to know exactly where our elected officials — or those challenging them — stand on an issue. They have a solemn obligation to tell us.

And yet, here we are. Do the Republicans deserve to win back Congress? Not enough Americans are demanding an answer to that critically important question.

And we keep getting the government we deserve.

Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and is a former White House and Pentagon official and a novelist. His e-mail is douglas.mackinnon@verizon.net.

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