Our Gordian Knot

by on November 7th, 2006

Post-mortems are common, but Fred Barnes has begun the process long before the polls have closed and results are known. He enumerates the common excuses and explanations for Republican woes and presumed loss of the House, from losing the spirit of 1994 when they swept into power to the failure to pass meaningful immigration reform, as well as the now long-forgotten “ownership society.”

Mr. Barnes further argues that a broad program of reform, to include holding Congress to higher ethical standards, would have at least been something of substance to showcase, and whether it led to victory or not, would have provided the subject for a healthy debate.

Although these are all valid criticisms and recommendations, political history is replete with examples of opportunities squandered and leadership that gets bogged down or simply depletes it resources. However, as we witnessed this disconcerting display over the past few years the leadership seemed immune from the prescient voices among us that correctly argued that the party was missing one opportunity after another.

Mella is Founder and Editor of ClearCommentary.com

Indeed, it turns out that their exquisitely refined sense of political calculus was far too finely tuned because it overlooked the timeless value of unvarnished candor and principle as the driving forces in successful leadership. With the notable exception of national security, which will mitigate electoral losses nationally, the Republican leadership bobbed and weaved its way along the path of least resistance and predictably has next to nothing to show for it.

But this analysis would be remiss by not including the unprecedented nature of the challenge party leaders and rank-and-file faced in an electorate plagued by self-induced war fatigue and culturally engineered to resist assuming greater responsibility with respect to their economic future.

That backdrop made such enticing ideas as President Bush’s “ownership society,” which included the option of individual-directed investment of Social Security dollars, to exciting health care models that placed more of the burden for making informed decisions on the consumer, nearly impossible to pass.

Because there are no other viable alternatives, that has elevated the otherwise anemic Democratic Party to a level of prominence wholly undeserved. Dispirited voters are torn between Republicans who have been strong on the economy and the war against the Islamic extremists but who are scandal ridden and Democrats who are weak on national security, questionable on the economy, but are anxious to prove themselves worthy of leadership. Indeed, they’ve done everything possible except outline the kind of comprehensive policy platform typically required of a truly deserving party, which is to say they are eminently undeserving.

Leadership is a fragile and friable commodity and it is arguable that with the unique challenge of Islamic extremism and a nation uniquely unprepared to meet it, it may only have the ability to express itself in response to a devastating attack.

Calls to look beyond our own parochial concerns in the vein of Jack Kennedy’s Inaugural Address are usually met with a yawning indifference or outright civic hostility. It’s no wonder both parties are scrambling with modest success to find the correct formula to garner electoral support.

Each desperately wants to be the majoritarian party whose ideas are predominant, and the Republicans’ only chance is to remain faithful to their founding principles and values. It may take time, but most Americans will be drawn to their vision of a strong national defense, traditional values, low taxation and regulation, and self-reliance.

Philip Mella