While on the ground in Mississippi for the special election this past May 13th I was able to hear the voices of the people who were up in arms over the behavior of the Republican Party. They were furious. They kept saying that the Grand Old Party had lost its way. Mind you, these were Republican voters. The independents and moderates were even more furious with the GOP.
It appears the Republican brand has become tarnished and stained by the policies and actions of the last several years. Certainly, scandals like the ones involving Mark Foley, Larry Craig and Jack Abramoff come to mind. However, something much deeper than scandals, which have plagued both parties to be honest, has cost the GOP its good name.
Like a wandering nomad searching for a home, the GOP has apparently lost touch with its very soul. How did this all come about?
Let’s think back to the first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidential term. During the 1993-1994 legislative calendar years, Clinton attempted to advance some of the most hideous policy initiatives. From a tax hike on every unit of energy we use, known as British Thermal Units (BTU’s), to the socialized medicine plan that came to be known as Hillary-Care, Bill Clinton kept striking out even with a Democrat majority in Congress.
In 1994, the American public was so outraged by Clinton’s liberal activism -- this after pledging to be a new Democrat --they voted to oust the Democrat majority in Congress and replace it with a Republican majority.
Enter Dick Morris. After taking a beating in the 1994 Congressional elections, Bill Clinton reached out to his former advisor and asked him to save his presidency. Morris employed a strategy known as Triangulation to save Bill and it worked.
Triangulation is a strategy where a political candidate adopts positions his or her opponent normally takes, in order to steal the positions and the subsequent voters along with the positions.
Employing Morris’ triangulation tactics, Bill Clinton soon began talking about getting tough on crime, a traditionally Republican issue, as well as family values by advancing such ideas as the v-chip TV technology so parents could have greater control in stopping their children from watching offensive material.
By taking Republican policies away from the GOP, the Republicans had less of a platform to run on and Bill Clinton was easily reelected in 1996. In fact, the GOP lost some seats in Congress that year.
Triangulation worked well for the Democrats but what about the Republicans?
When G.W. Bush took office in 2001, he employed the same Triangulation tactics that Bill Clinton used in the 1990’s. For instance, G.W. Bush reached out to Ted Kennedy and allowed him to write the No Child Left Behind legislation that included a major increase in federal funding and mandates for public education. This was clearly a big government, Democrat style proposal that President Bush championed.
G.W. Bush even used his authority as president to embrace a big labor position by tacking on steel tariffs to foreign steel companies they were “dumping” cheap steel in the USA.
Then came the 9/11 attacks. Bush and the GOP responded by creating a new department called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and awarding it vast amounts of federal funding. They even placed all private airport security screeners under government control by creating the Transportation Security Administration, which is under the DHS umbrella. This was all in the first year of the G.W. Bush administration.
As the years followed, even more Democrat style legislation was passed by the Republican majority in Congress and signed into law by G.W. Bush. From the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D), to a foreign policy that spread Democracy to the world (a Woodrow Wilson foreign policy ideal), the Republicans kept triangulating, which allowed them to steal issues from the Democrats and steal more Democrat seats in Congress as well.
Then a funny thing happened. In 2006, the American people had enough of budget busting spending and bureaucracy and voted for so-called “conservative” Democrats who took Southern and Midwestern congressional seats away from the Republican Party.
From 2001 to 2006, Congressional Republicans had stolen so many issues from the Democrats they stopped looking like Republicans and started looking like Democrats. When the American people are given the choice of Democrats versus Republicans that act like Democrats, they will always choose Democrats. Part of the reason is that Democrats acting like Democrats is at least genuine and authentic no matter how bad their policies are.
Democrats figured out they could counter-triangulate the Republicans by stealing issues traditionally embraced by the GOP. As such, the Blue-Dog Democrats in Congress have more than doubled their membership since the 2006 elections and have added more to their ranks due to the recent special elections. Never mind that almost all of these freshman Blue-Dog Democrats have broken their promises in some way, shape or form. They are running to the right of the GOP by using triangulation.
The only way for the GOP to win back its credibility and its brand name is to get back to basics and run to the right of the Blue-Dogs on policy, while exposing all of the Blue-Dogs’ broken promises in the process. Let’s face it, triangulation can only work for one party until the other party counter-triangulates.
Let this be a lesson for the GOP. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. The best way to keep from being branded as something else other than a Republican is to simply be a Republican and not waver from that fact.
After all, if Republicans continue to act like Democrats, the people will continue to vote for Democrats, as they will always pass out more entitlement “goodies” than Republicans.