The year 2008 promises to be an historic election year. The reasons for this are numerous. Not unsurprisingly, we often cannot see the forest for the trees. Most Americans want a change, but we are not to the point that we want change-for-change-sake. In a recent barbershop discussion, my friends and I decided that we need at least another party or a way of recalibrating the focus of the two major parties we have.
All of us are aware that life inside of the Beltway evidently changes people, their perspectives, and their loyalties. The average American believes the days are gone that a Mr. Smith will go to Washington and remain true to his ideals and the priorities of the people that elected him. Therefore, we are asking ourselves the question, “Who can we trust?”
It’s disappointing that our cultural history since Nixon has taught us that most politicians cannot be trusted. In fact, things have gotten so bad that the front runners from both parties want to be seen as “outsiders.” Unfortunately, true outsiders could never mount the sophisticated campaigns that we see before us. How does an “outsider” raise 20 or 30 million dollars this early in the presidential “marathon”?
Today’s candidates are perhaps the most impressive field of contenders we have ever seen, yet the average person has been saying to himself,” There are no real choices!” For most of us our thought is that each one of them lacks the ring of sincerity. Political theatre and posturing seems to be replacing statesmanship and substantive policy development. The early campaigns seem more like episodes of a reality show or “political idol” than a systematic march towards the most powerful positions in the world. The political landscape seems to be littered with broken promises by politicians and disappearing political bases.
What does this all mean? We are becoming burned out on the political process. Like a long term drug addict, we have a much harder time “getting high” from the stuff we use.
As the pre-election clock ticks there is an increasing tension in the political air, more than ever before an incredible amount of money is being spent by those who would become the next president. It goes without saying that there is a lot riding on the next presidency.
The biggest problem we have is that none of the candidates have a true vision for where they want to take the nation. Whether Ronald Regan or John F. Kennedy had real vision or not they at least captured the heart and imagination of their respective generations.
I repeat -Where is the man or woman with a vision? The last two presidential elections have been about the politics of fear. Both liberals and conservatives have mastered the art of raising huge amounts of money by warning the “faithful” that the bad guys are about to win.
In 2006, the national message of the liberals was simply that the current administration could not be trusted to protect the nation internally or domestically. The second message the liberals gave came from a strategy I have seen them use for many years. The liberal community often attempts to tell a minority or special interest group that they cannot make it on their own. They suggest that a larger more powerful group is out to get them. Liberals also imply that people have to stay with "their group." No matter how far they have come individually, it is implied that they will never outgrow identification with their group. This liberal approach can dreg up xenophobic fears and create an “us-versus-them” mentality that is not easy to shake.
Conservatives are currently resorting to name calling and fear mongering as well. This is truly unfortunate because today’s conservative movement began as a revival of core American principles. Conservatives at their best, speak of the potential of the individual. They believe that individuals who are free from unnecessary governmental limitations can achieve far more than their personal history or group identity would typically predict.
If conservatives stay on the defensive we will be viewed through the lenses of narrow minded stereotypes –-- pro-upper class and anti-poor. We are not elitists, on the contrary, we believe in the power of common man. Conservatives understand that free enterprise, wealth creation, and upward mobility are a part of bringing dignity to work and social enterprise.
An easy way to reverse the mid-term election trends and win the presidency in 2008 will be to follow-up with each of the five major groups that liberals have been attempting to scare the last 18 months. These groups are:
1. Evangelical Christians
3. African Americans
4. Economic Conservatives
Defy the stereotype, and keep hope alive!