For many years now there has been literally a flood of information available on just about every issue of the day. An enormous amount of research regarding what works and doesn’t work in the field of public policy is available in fifty states and Washington, D.C. to elected Republicans at all levels of government, as well as to their staffs.
A couple of simple questions are in order. Why do we hear so little in the way of substance from our elected Republicans? The answer is that few of them bother to read, analyze, or at least attempt to summarize any of that information. Why isn’t public opinion not solidly in our corner on the big issues of the day as a result of all that good information? The answer is that our elected representatives don’t bother doing any of the work required to sell good ideas.
Too many politicians still cling to the old fashioned
approach to their jobs. They think today is yesterday, when government wasn’t the single largest interest group ever seen. They think we still live in the olden days when thousands of taxeating special interest groups didn’t exist with the sole purpose of securing ever more tax dollars.
There are so many valuable things that can be said in so many ways on so many issues. When we do hear from Republican elected officials, we hear lukewarm statements or equivocation. You get the impression that they’ve yet to take a position, or if they have, they’re deathly afraid of offending anyone who might disagree. Not exactly inspirational leadership.
When they do peep up, it’s tepid, scared, and lifeless. Not exactly the stuff that changes minds. The reason is that for most of them, holding office isn’t about advancing reforms or solving problems. Rather, holding office is about holding onto that office. If it was about something more than that we would’ve seen the evidence of it by now.
I heard someone say in December 2002 that “we need to elect a better class of people.” That’s still the biggest job facing reform minded citizens. Those who have attempted to do so in a few scattered races here and there have discovered that scattered efforts by a few people aren’t going to get the job done. The resources possessed by those trying to prevent change are still more than sufficient to succeed.
We need a troop surge of new blood in Illinois politics. Until we see one, don’t expect much to change.
We are where we are in part because Democrat politicians see themselves as advocates, while Republican politicians see themselves as brokers. Democrats have a policy agenda. Republicans have a reelection agenda.
Democrats aren’t afraid of protecting the status quo or trying to make it worse by increasing its funding. Too many Republican politicians are afraid to do anything that might offend anyone, lest they get attacked in the press.
The press being against you doesn’t mean failure. In fact it can lead to success. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson knew that:
“I hate to be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success.”
The only time it’s a problem is when you rely on the press for 100 percent of your communication efforts – which is, of course, what most of our elected Republicans do.
The fact is that Republican fundraising and GOP morale is down for one simple reason. Rank and file Republicans and voters in general believe our candidates and office holders lack credibility.
To cite just one example, for years and years we’ve been hearing how they’re for limited government and yet government grows at a record pace even when Republicans hold power.
Republicans held substantial power in Illinois during the 1990s and in Washington, D.C. during this decade. Yet instead of reform, a strong economy meant prosperity for government and those who benefit from its growth.
Opportunities to enact reforms have been squandered. It’s not surprising that campaign donor checkbooks remain closed and volunteer enthusiasm is lacking.
While would-be leaders still have to convince us that they support GOP principles, their even larger task now is to convince us that they know how to actually accomplish something once in office.
All the talk of gloom and doom nationally for Republicans next year is premature. There is still time to make the campaign about ideas. For all the theorizing regarding what, at the end of the day, moves voters, the issues still count. One question that is always asked is now more important than ever: “if we elect this guy, will he really get anything done?”