The party in charge in Washington is doing a horrible job.
But can Republicans do any better?
To say that the Democrats are “drunk with power” or “out of touch” is inadequate. Something on the order of “clueless” or “oblivious” or “tone-deaf” would be more accurate.
But simply to have the Democrats tripping over their own kingly and queenly arrogance and their incompetence, is not enough to create success for the Republican Party. Republicans - in Congress, running for Congress, and elsewhere - need a cohesive message that signals a competent, respectful, “American” styled government leadership alternative. Can the Republican Party produce this kind of message?
Let’s start by examining just how bad things are with the Democrats. The President that put together the bi-partisan economic advisory dream-team has a moderate, Clinton-era, reasonable appearing member in Larry Summers. But where is former Reagan economic advisor Paul Volcker? He’s neither seen nor heard. And despite Summers’ occasional media appearances, Obama’s economic policies look nothing like either the Reagan era or the Clinton era.
Instead, we got an $800 billion economic “stimlus” bill that funded, among other things, “free” tatoo removal, cricket control, the promotion of astronomy in the Hawaiian islands, a federal sex education program called “Booty Call,” and other non-economically simulative pet projects. The so-called “shovel ready” infrastructure construction projects that were promised have yet to materialize, consumer spending is declining again, and unemployment benefits claims are rising.
Then there was President Obama’s $3.5 trillion budget (Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is now asking Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling above $12 trillion for fear that there won‘t be money to fund Obama‘s budget after October of this year); the so-called “cap-and-trade” energy tax bill that Congressional Democrats themselves scuttled because of outrage from constituents; President Obama’s “firing” of GM’s C.E.O. and his take-over of GM and Chrysler; and the $3 billion plus “cash for clunkers” program that was supposed to get people out of fuel guzzling old cars and into energy efficient new cars, but now is known to have been used for purchases of luxury sedans and SUV’s.
And then there is the proposed nationalization of healthcare. Congressional Democrats can’t seem to fathom how their stupid, un-enlightened constituents could possibly dare to question a proposal to intervene into some of the most personal and intimate area’s of a person’s life. Those who dare to ask questions, or worse yet disapprove, have been labeled by Congressional Democrats as “un-American,” “evil,” “Astroturf,” and “the mob,” and have been accused of “carrying swastikas,” “trying to bring down the President,” and have been compared to the KKK in the days of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Congressional disdain for the “commoner” hit a crescendo last week when Liberal Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, at a town hall meeting in her district, was caught on video suddenly stepping away from her podium to take a call on her mobile phone, even as an audience member was on-microphone, in mid sentence, asking the Congresswoman a question about healthcare.
Nothing says “I don’t care about the idiot voters” like a member of Congress taking a mobile phone call, while a constituent is trying to ask a question.
So, yes, those controlling Washington these days are performing horribly. But what can Republican offer as an alternative?
The current healthcare mess provides tremendous opportunity for Republicans. For starters, Republicans could pledge that they will not legislate any healthcare “reforms” that they would not live with themselves. It’s no secret that the healthcare benefits afforded to members of Congress are of superior quality. Yet, Democrats continue to draft legislative provisions that in some cases would restrict people’s access to healthcare, in other cases would tax people’s existing healthcare, and have contemplated the possibility of levying taxes on “plastic surgery” purchases.
The message being sent by the Democrats to America is “we’re better than you, and we’ll decide what you need,” yet that’s an unacceptable message for most Americans. Republicans can’t simply talk about private-sector reforms (although that must be at the epicenter of the message); they must now address America’s outrage towards the Congressional majority‘s arrogance, and convey that, “no, we are not better than you, and we want better choices for everybody.”
Republican leaders would also do well to convene a series of “heatlhcare alternative” town hall meetings across the country. Republican leaders who have sound, free-market heatlhcare reform ideas - some members of Congress would fit this description, like Congressman John Shaddegg of Arizona and Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, but so would Governor Tim Pawlenty and perhaps other Governors as well - should arrange their own speaking tours across the country. The message here would be “we have an alternative to the President’s plan, we’re in the minority, yet our vision is closer to yours..”
The opportunity for Republicans is at hand. Can they seize the moment? Can they do any better?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.