On this website we’ve questioned the believability of a few recent nice-sounding expressions of principle from General Assembly Republicans. An excellent article in the new issue of National Review helps make the larger point that underlies our attitude.
Whether you’re talking about foreign policy or domestic policy the communications challenge is the same. For the public to back the right policy direction they must hear the case argued effectively, which means energetically.
Victor Davis Hanson, an accomplished author, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and classics professor, recently wrote in a piece titled “Honesty About Iraq, How are we doing?” (emphasis added):
“The United States can usually win even postmodern wars abroad if it can play to its strengths — which are marshaling our enormous material, intelligence, and technological advantages to defeat the enemy before he inflicts enough casualties to convince an affluent and comfortable public at home that such losses are simply not worth the envisioned aims.
So how are we doing?
As expected, many of our traditional advantages are being nullified…”
While we easily won the war to remove Saddam, a second war started immediately after. In it,
“Our soldiers are fighting brilliantly, and history will record they are defeating the enemy while suffering historically low casualties. But if the sacrifice of American youth is not tied — daily, hourly — to larger strategic and humanitarian goals by eloquent statesmen who believe in the mission, then cynicism follows and, with it, despair.”
That statement is incredibly important – and it goes to the larger failure of almost every elected Republican in the nation who supports the effort to win in Iraq. Hanson writes,
“We need to confess that the jihadists are not only keen students of insurgency warfare, but good observers of the American psyche…
So what to do?”
Hanson’s answer points to a principle that applies for all matters of policy (emphasis added):
“We can quibble and fight about tactics on the ground, manpower numbers, strategic postures toward Iran and Syria, the need to prod the Iraqis, but our problem is more existential. Either stabilizing Iraq now is felt critical to the United States and the West or it isn’t. If the Left is right that it isn’t, then we should flee; if they are wrong, and I think they are, then we must start using our vast cultural and media resources to explain what is at stake — in a strategic and humanitarian sense — and precisely what it is costing America and why it in the long run is worth it, and how we have adjusted to counter our enemies who in the last four years have not won in Iraq or anywhere else either.”
Hanson calls what we’ve seen up until now from our political leadership on this “critical information” front is “relative inaction.” He concludes the piece by saying exactly what’s needed:
“So more explanation, less assertion; more debate with, rather than dismissal of, critics. And the final irony? The more brutal honesty, the less euphemism and generalities, the more Americans will accept the challenge.”
In the relative sandbox of Springfield and the Illinois General Assembly what is needed is exactly the same.
As the governor and the legislators work out a compromise budget in their overtime session, conflicting Republican smoke signals rise above the capitol. It’s all but certain that there are still Republican votes for an income tax increase despite the claims of the leadership that their goal is to “not raise taxes and live within our means.”
If we choose to believe the “fiscally responsible” eleventh hour statements from Republicans, serious action must follow or we’ll have to conclude that all we heard was empty rhetoric aimed to deceive. Will General Assembly Republicans become invisible again once the session is over, or will we see in the coming months —
- A call for much needed oversight of existing spending?
- A serious outline of priorities?
- A list of genuine reforms?
- Examples of where government should be rolled back?
- A serious effort to move public opinion in support of Republican principles?
On that last bullet point – when is the last time you saw any real effort on the part of General Assembly Republicans to change the minds of their fellow citizens on any issue? If they don’t know how to do it they should learn. If they don’t think it’s possible they should retire.
For a number of years, we’ve been have been offering suggestions and outlining solutions to those with the power to get things done.
On the Party side we need to open up the IL GOP to democracy and tap the energy of the rank and file with a special convention in 2007 and clean things up so good people will be encouraged to get active.
On the leadership side we need our legislators to modernize their approach to their jobs since the days of the horse and buggy are over.
Like Victor Davis Hanson’s words about foreign policy, I believe that if the case is made to Illinoisans that Republican platform principles hold the key to meeting the challenges facing state government, voters will support real reform.