After more years than I care to admit, I find myself more disappointed with my political party than ever. And that’s saying something.
By way of perspective, I’ve had the privilege of working in two national campaigns, running for Congress in West Texas, serving in two Republican Administrations, being elected to party leadership in Virginia, and working and writing for more campaigns than I can recall. So, I’ve had enough time to draw some broad conclusions.
The party has always been afraid of its own shadow, even in victory. But in the last twenty years it seems downright eager to capitulate to the cultural radicals and join the big spenders without even an argument, much less a fight.
It has always had a self-anointed class of donors and influence peddlers who are more concerned with what the Washington Post and the New York Times think of them, than how history would judge them. Plus a herd of non-elected functionaries who walk close to the yellow line in the middle of the road, so that they can cash flow regardless of which direction traffic is moving.
And the party has always had its intellectual gadflies who see their own principles much the same as Lt. Colonel Nicholson saw that bridge on the River Kwai – a purpose outside of critical examination.
But, at least from my vantage point, worse than all of this is that the party has never had such a dearth of leadership, political savvy, judgment, and raison d’être as in recent years generally, and the last two more specifically.
The election of 2016 brought many of the party’s weaknesses to the surface, making them obvious to any fair observer. Many blame it, of course, on Donald J. Trump.
But Mr. Trump’s surprise victory was a consequence of long-standing Republican dysfunction, not its cause.
For much of this century Republicans have held the House or the Senate, or both, and the White House for the first eight years. Yet, the size, scope, intrusion and cost of government has exploded, and one is hard pressed to differentiate between the fiscal and social policies of the two parties.
Last month, as though to put an exclamation point on this reality, a 2,200 page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that was written in secret by a handful of staff and members, passed without inspection. (Evidently we will never have regular order again in Congressional budgeting).
This obese budget sets a new baseline for future budgets by ballooning spending in discretionary spending by 13%, and includes $21 billion dollars in infrastructure spending with no setoffs as was originally proposed. It is crammed tighter than a bratwurst with all sorts of really nasty things: from funding for various immigration activities, including illegal aliens – but not the wall, protecting Obamacare funding, a cool half billion dollars so that Planned Parenthood can continue destroying babies, and even retains National Public Radio – or National Panhandler Radio as commentator Chris Plante has dubbed them.
A mouse-trapped President Trump seemed flustered and rather dejected in signing the boondoggle that couldn’t have been more chock full of liberal big spending eye candy if the Democrats actually did control the Congress.
The President vowed “never again” would this happen. We’ll see in not too many months as this train wreck runs its course.
But, the damage is done, and the Republican leadership seem tickled pink – as though nothing extraordinary just happened. What they are missing is both obvious and sad.
Even at the White House itself, there seems to be shockingly little political acuity at all on the President’s own staff. Mr. Trump appears to be virtually alone, the only person there who has the faintest idea of what is going on in the country, and why he won the presidency in the first place.
The party leaders and movers and shakers seem largely clueless, still, over why sixteen other candidates were passed over for Donald J. Trump, and why he was elected in spite of the every obstacle thrown in his path.
The politics of 2016 – what was on the mind of average, working class Americans – had been very obvious since 2010 and 2014, yet out of seventeen candidates running for the Republican nomination (including my own candidate), only Donald J. Trump dared address the issues head on: working, middle class Americans were fed up with wide open uncontrolled legal and illegal immigration that was clearly depressing wages, opportunity, causing a huge expansion of government services while fraying the culture; they were alarmed that the economy and prosperity was being strangled by rapidly climbing taxes and punishing federal mandates like Obamacare; and working class Americans were disheartened and disillusioned with massive international agreements that seemed to continually transfer jobs, wealth and even American independence to other countries who in return maintained hidden taxes and obstacles for U.S. goods, and in the case of China, openly stole intellectual property and demanded trade secrets as a price of entry into their market.
Voters heard Donald Trump like they had heard Ronald Reagan three decades earlier. President Reagan often said that if you really cared about and listened to people, then the politics was easy to figure out.
Yet, if you talk to party leaders across the states and listen to the “politicians” on the Hill, you have to conclude that they really don’t get retail politics. They’re captured by soundbite politics, pretending that they are conservatives while voting like liberals, because they have very little regard for their own constituents. What comes naturally to the Democrats is a chore for Republicans.
Now the new mantra you hear from too many Republicans is that massive, ever expanding government and reduced liberties are driving policy and demanded by the changing demographics in the country. The party must change.
Hogwash, demographics ain’t politics. The purest form of racism is when we believe – which we as a party too often infer – that African-Americans, Asians or Hispanic’s don’t want to be a free people. That they don’t want to be prosperous people. That they don’t want to raise their families in a faithful and safe civil order. Do Asian, Hispanic or African immigrants want the same form of corrupt governments that they immigrated from or fled?
The real problem for our party is we so rarely listen and talk to these same “groups” – I even hate talking about other citizens on the basis of ethnicity – employing these ideas. We don’t invest in any meaningful discussion with them except with contrived “identity” based events.
The party has no national agenda and makes no effort that seeks to educate, explain, and appeal to Americans based on what America is, and isn’t. We have a foundation of guaranteed rights unknown in human history, and we treat it as a throw-away line in speeches. We have the most prosperous population the world has ever produced and the economy with the most equally distributed wealth – because of human freedom, not in spite of it. All too often, we collaborate on fixating on our faults, and instead of attacking Democrats when they play identity politics – which is pretty much always – Republicans remain absent from the field of battle. We rarely respond to the radical left, fearing a fist fight, even when it is obvious that the American people agree with us.
If a “blue wave” election is coming towards Republicans this autumn, it is their own fault. But there is still time to regroup, and put a national agenda before the public that endorses, not runs from, the ideas and issues facing middle income, working class Americans – ideas that formed the basis of the 2016 victory. And it will take President Trump, going back to the people and asking a simple question; do you want an America that works for everyone, or just an America that works for the few?