Our Political Quagmire

It appears that a quagmire has resulted in an explosive civil war that pits brother against brother – and I’m not talking about Iraq, I’m talking about the Democratic Party. Molly Ivins says that she’s had enough of the DC Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Howard Dean is facing an insurgency in his own party as George Soros makes an end-run around the DNC over voter data. The Democratic leadership is basically in disarray as the party starts to fracture between the Clinton wing and the Dean wing of the party.

The national political trends may be quite favorable for the Democrats at the moment, but you can’t win elections if you’ve got a party that’s as deeply divided as the Democrats. It would appear that both parties are spending their time shooting themselves in the feet rather than building up for the 2006 midterms. 2006 may go to the party that’s the least incompetent, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of American politics these days.

The Democrats don’t know how to be a minority party and the Republicans haven’t a clue how to be a majority party – which means that the Democrats have fallen towards reflexive Bush-bashing rather than forming an agenda, and the Republicans have been busy forgetting they had an agenda and have spend the last few years raiding the Treasury and preening for the cameras.

My guess is that 2006 is going to be a very low turnout election, especially in comparison to 2004. People are sick and tired of politics, and it’s pretty damned easy to understand why. The Democrats are shrill, the Republicans clueless, and both parties have demonstrated why building our nation’s capital on swampland was perhaps a bit too prescient. The Democrats are hoping that voters want to throw the bums out. The Republicans are hoping that the public won’t want to exchange new bums for old. Meanwhile, Iran continues to build nuclear weapons, spending continues to spiral out of control, and the stench of corruption still hangs over Congress.

The GOP and the White House had a solid agenda, but never seemed to want to defend it. If the GOP can’t stand for something going into 2006, this election could be a disaster. What’s worse is that the ports deal has severely harmed the GOP’s biggest advantage: national security. Even though the Democrats are engaging in political fratricide, winning due to the utter incompetence of the opposition isn’t anything worth crowing about. The Republicans need to return to the rhetoric of the “ownership society” and actually defend it against the attacks from the left. Social Security reform could have been a winning issue if the Republicans and conservative interest groups had been willing to take the left to the mat on the issue. Instead, we backed down. School choice was an idea that could have changed the political landscape – instead we got the No Child Left Behind Act, an act which hasn’t pleased anyone.

If a Republican majority means a bunch of missed opportunities to do more than throw pork around, a lot of conservatives will stay home on Election Day. Yes, the Democrats are divided. Yes, they’re shrill, boorish, hyper-partisan and unattractive to anyone who hasn’t swallowed the anti-Bush Kool-Aid then come back for seconds. At the same time, if we’re viewed as being little better, how can we expect to win.

It’s time for the GOP to get an agenda and stick to it. The President is trying to fight pork, and the Congress should follow suit. The Republicans need to show that they’re the party that will get tough on corruption, even if that means divorcing ourselves from the likes of Tom DeLay. Politics is a game of perceptions and right now the perceptions of our party are not good. You don’t win in politics by reaction – the Democrats learned that in 2002 and 2004. You win by leading. The Republican Party needs to take a lead on the issues. They need to run an anti-Establishment campaign from within – to regain the winning strategies of the 1994 Contract with America.

People are rightly sick and tired of government. They’re sick and tired of a monstrous federal bureaucracy that consumes everything and does nothing. The Republicans need to promise a governmen that is smaller, more transparent, and more responsive to the needs of our citizens. That used to be our signature ideology. Yet today, thanks to years of profligate spending, the Republican Party has lost touch with their roots.

If the voters this year have a choice between a party of bloated mediocrity and a party of pathological insanity, that’s not much of a choice. Voters deserve better, and our party needs to give them a better choice.

One thought on “Our Political Quagmire

  1. “My guess is that 2006 is going to be a very low turnout election, especially in comparison to 2004. People are sick and tired of politics, and it’s pretty damned easy to understand why.”

    I think you’re wrong here. The one positive development of Bush-era polarization is a renewed interest in politics. There is election buzz already in March (and several months preceding for that matter). When in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when election turnouts frequently hit their low-water mark, was there as much political engagement this early in a campaign season? In many ways, having “too much money” in the political system is an instigator for this political engagement since it funds more TV ads….and regardless of what people might tell you, the political ads promote rather than negate public interest in politics.

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