Honey and Vinegar and Reality Politics

In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with political insiders on a regular basis — from party officials, to candidates, to current office holders, to interesting activists.

After all the failures of the Republican Party in recent years, however, it’s troubling that there are still so many would-be leaders who are fearful of speaking up. Private conversations are lovely, but frankly, I’m tired of them. We need public conversations — public statements — demonstrations of courage and leaders who are ready to put it on the line.

Obviously I can’t name names, but in the past couple of weeks two individuals in particular I was in a meeting with “movers and shakers.” Except — unfortunately in this case — they’re movers-and-shakers-in-name-only.

One person who sat with us this week sought to define leadership as complaining privately, avoiding critical battles, agreeing with you “off the record,” and refusing to say things publicly that would cause a stir.

If this is leadership, it’s no wonder things have gotten worse on the Republican side of the political aisle. It seems potential leaders with money, laudable personal abilities, or a bully pulpit don’t have the courage that accompanies real conviction.

Instead of taking a position and speaking out, they prefer to pretend that a charm offensive will get bad players to change their ways. Their niceness, smile, and smooth talk will awaken the best in people and suddenly all will be well. Of course nothing could be further from the truth — things don’t move in politics unless they’re pushed.

Politics is a contact sport. War is in fact a metaphor for the political arena. Fifty-plus years ago President Harry Truman said “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” If you can’t handle the social discomfort that comes with delivering bad news, then you really need to get out of politics.

I’ve addressed this topic often on this website.

Friends accuse me of “bashing” those who are my allies. They use the “you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar” line to argue that I’m taking the exact wrong approach if I wish to persuade…

It’s not easy to watch the decades pass while our leaders fail to do their jobs.

In a nutshell — talented conservatives in important public offices continue to squander the power of their offices and under-utilize their personal abilities. I’ve offered many suggestions in articles linked on this page.

[T]ough times require tough leaders — and it’s high time those elected realize they’re not getting the job done. Getting elected and reelected isn’t enough.

The men and women who hold important public offices are running out of excuses for their failure to help build a political party (the GOP) and help move public opinion in support of the right policy solutions.

If the disastrous Obama health care reform bill doesn’t pass this year it’s going to be a very good thing. It will be because Americans weren’t sitting at home screaming at their TV or having private conversations or asking not to be quoted. Instead, they showed up at town hall meetings and raised their voices and weren’t afraid to be “abrasive” or “antagonistic” to those whose failures and foolishness were costing them dearly.

Vinegar can be used as a cleaning agent, and our goal isn’t to attract flies with honeyed words. We’re trying to attract serious, honest Americans who are willing to do the hard work of democracy and build a professional political party for the purpose of advancing a reform agenda.

I’ve got news for all those charmers out there. The National Education Association, ACORN, the SEUI and other public and private sector unions aren’t much impressed with charm. It’s going to take force to extract their hands from our state and federal government steering wheel.

Like it or not, politics ain’t beanbag. If you can’t handle tough talk or an intramural fight within the GOP — you’re a delusional dreamer to think you’re up to the task of bringing much needed policy reform to the state of Illinois or to this nation as a whole.

There is no moderate solution to the challenges facing us. No better example of a challenge exists than government spending and debt. If you doubt that and still prefer to cling to fantasy, visit these three websites and explain where the money is going to come from to pay down this bipartisan politically created mess.

U.S. Debt Clock

Institute for Truth in Accounting

Peter G. Peterson Foundation