Prospects look bleak for the Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections. The latest Washington Post poll shows registered voters heavily favoring Democrats over Republicans. This isn't because Democrats have articulated a vision that Americans find compelling -- it's because Republicans have splintered and abandoned their message. The public isn't happy with Democrats, it's angry with Republicans.
Since President Bush's re-election in 2004, the American public has been treated to a constant barrage of antiwar headlines, corruption investigations, economic naysaying, pictures of flooded cities, and massive protests by those who disdain the rule of law -- and Congress has done little or nothing. President Bush has been charged with usurpation of civil liberties, mismanagement of the war effort and corruption -- and his response has been tepid at best.
The biggest problem for Republicans is their unwillingness to go on the political offensive. The Republicans seem focused on explaining to Americans just how good they have it. And Republicans are right: The economy is up; fewer and fewer Americans are being killed in Iraq; there hasn't been a terrorist attack for almost five years. Yet Americans still have the persistent perception that something is drastically wrong. For electoral purposes, it doesn't matter why Americans are so pessimistic. The bottom line is that they are.
In a one-sided political conversation in which your opponent defines you, you will always look bad. Bringing a "new tone" to Washington wears thin when your opponent refuses to abide by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. That's why, if the Republicans want to win in 2006, they're going to have to remind Americans not only why the GOP deserves votes, but why the Democratic Party doesn't.
The Democratic Party cannot be trusted with national security. This is a party more concerned with health care than terrorism, more concerned with global warming than Al Qaeda. They complain about President Bush's use of wartime powers to order wiretapping on domestic to international phone calls between suspected terrorists, complaining that civil liberties are being violated. Democrats are more worried that the government will monitor calls between a mother and her daughter backpacking in Europe than that the government will ignore calls between deputies of Osama bin Laden and terrorists like Mohammed Atta. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) attempts to have President Bush censured for protecting the American people.