SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- This city and its environs used to be a GOP stronghold -- an island of Republican power in the midst of a rapidly changing, Democrat-controlled state. That's no longer the case. And what is happening here in Southern California is, in many ways, a reflection of what's happening across the nation.
The silhouette of the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) -- first in the class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that are essential to projecting American power -- dominates the harbor. Navy and Marine F/A-18s regularly roar off the runway at North Island Naval Air Station. Thousands of young Americans who have volunteered to fight our country's battles are being trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, adjacent to the city's international airport. On a promontory above the port, a 29-foot high cross, erected in 1954 to honor those who fought in defense of our nation, overlooks the sea. Yet, all these symbols of American strength, resolve and tradition may well be on the way out.
A coalition of developers, environmental activists and anti-military radicals is now challenging whether San Diego's vital naval base-air station complex should continue in operation. The Marine "boot camp" has been targeted for closure. And the city fathers, once proud of the cross atop Mt. Soledad, have now agreed with the ACLU and a federal judge that this memorial to those who sacrificed for this country violates some mythical barrier between church and state, and will have to go.
Apparently, the majority of people in and around San Diego no longer feel that these things are important enough to fight for. The apathy and indifference are palpable -- and not just here on the Left Coast. Unfortunately for Republicans hoping to win or keep office in this November's midterm elections, ennui is no ally.
Over the last 30 days, I've traveled the length and breadth of this great land -- documenting the courage of veterans from battles past and present for our "War Stories" series on FOX News Channel. Though the evidence is all anecdotal -- and politics is thankfully not my "beat" -- there is a disheartening similarity in what "average Americans" are saying about our political process.
In Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- all places I have visited this month -- there is a near-universal refrain: "a pox on both their parties."
Now I'll be the first to admit that if I knew so much about politics, I'd be writing this column from my office in the U.S. Senate. And "political experts" will be quick to point out that conversations with people in 17 states hardly constitutes a representative "scientific sampling" of American public opinion. But for those of us who favor Republicans in mayor's offices, and on city councils, state legislatures and governor's mansions, and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, as even Karl Rove will have to acknowledge, disinterest is not a propitious sentiment.
This is no Red State-Blue State divide. And, at least for those who cared enough to bend my ear on the subject, the disaffection seems to leap age, economic and ethnic barriers. The most common complaints: "The GOP is out of touch with us"; "They just don't get it when it comes to our borders"; and "They're corrupt. All they care about is getting re-elected."
Tough stuff -- particularly for incumbents. It makes a person wonder who these elected officials are listening to during their lengthy recesses. No two issues are more indicative of the GOP's tin ear than the response of party officials to corruption in Washington and the vulnerability created by our porous borders.
Last week, "leaders" in both parties raced to the microphones to insist that FBI agents with a proper search warrant not use evidence collected in the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.
Jefferson had apparently been videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe, and agents allegedly found $90,000 in cool cash hidden in his freezer. To say that most Americans find it hard to accept that Jefferson's office shouldn't be searched by law enforcement under these circumstances is an understatement.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have sent an equally baffling message on border security. Though recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support border protection first, and are opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens, the White House and the Senate insist on a "comprehensive immigration bill" that will eventually grant citizenship to millions of "illegals."
The GOP has fewer than 160 days to convince Americans to vote for them. "Us or them" won't cut it. Republicans have to give Americans reasons to vote -- or find themselves losing big five months from now.