Now, Americans are confronted with a sickening sense that their power is slowly but inexorably ebbing. Whether it’s economic, with continuing high unemployment, mounting inflation and growing challenges to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency; international, as the United States defers to France and England (and the mandates of the UN and Arab League) in the Libyan intervention; or even personal – with the new stream of government mandates emanating from the implementation of ObamaCare – the American people feel besieged. And stressed. They want leaders who will steer the ship of state toward calmer waters, not choppier ones.
That’s why Republicans should make every sensible effort to avoid forcing a government shutdown. Shutdowns – or at least the overwrought media coverage of them – ramp up drama and intensify a sense of crisis, rather than defusing it.
Instead, the GOP needs to start explaining – calmly, simply and confidently – why and how their policies are going to improve Americans’ lives. Republicans need to lay out the reasons that cutting and reforming now can and will avert a crisis for our children later. They need to clarify why, this time, it’s different than the ‘90’s, which started with Ross Perot denouncing the deficit and ended with a government surplus. They need explicitly to outline how our economic health and international power are interconnected.
Deep, honorable and well-founded apprehensions about the direction of America spurred the birth of the Tea Party. But if independent or apolitical Americans are offered nothing but a diet of fear and crisis from Republicans and Tea Partiers, they will be ripe targets for the “ostrich” strategy that’s all the Democrats have to offer – wherein the United States simply ignores the scope of the challenge facing all of us while the politicians continue to spend, spend, spend.
At the heart of effective leadership is the understanding of when to use power, and how. In less serious times, political theatrics may be effective in attracting the attention of a complacent electorate. But in serious times – like these – anxious voters want representatives who project resolve, calm, concern for the common good . . . and the cheerful, steadfast confidence that, working together, Americans are quite capable of overcoming any crisis that confronts us.