November 9, 2006
Republicans Squander Historic MandateBy Noel Sheppard
In November 2004, Americans gave the Republican Party and its leader, President George W. Bush, a resounding mandate to enact conservative policies in his second term. Two years later, when it was clear to these same voters how poorly the G.O.P. responded to this call to arms, the citizens took it back.
Taking a Punch
As right—leaning Americans lick their wounds after a stunning defeat Tuesday, they must not fall prey to the typical finger—pointing and blame game that normally happens after such a transfer of power.
Within hours of the polls closing, prominent Republicans faulted the media, Democrats, the war in Iraq, and get out the vote efforts for their Party's failure. With America at war on several fronts, such irresponsible Monday morning—quarterbacking is unacceptable.
Good leaders in sports, business, and politics know that they learn more from their defeats than their victories. Now is not the time for Republicans to forget such an important axiom.
This is especially true given how precious little the G.O.P. learned from its historic victory two years ago, or have you forgotten that 2004 represented the first time since 1936 that a president won re—election with his party gaining seats in both chambers of Congress?
Such a rare alignment of the planets gave Republicans the authority to enact bold measures that could have dramatically benefited the nation for decades. This was certainly the goal expressed by President Bush during his September 2, 2004, acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention:
Nice sentiments all. Unfortunately, two years later, the following critical planks from this platform remain woefully unresolved:
On these issues, a Republican president, with a Republican House and a Republican Senate, went 0—for—5. How disgraceful.
Leading With Your Right
Yet, maybe more unconscionable was how the Administration misinterpreted the results of the previous two elections, and what it had promised the nation — security. Team Bush was wise in recognizing the changes in the electorate after 9/11, and adeptly exploited the resulting uneasiness. However, these same folks eventually ignored what they had catalyzed, and this in the end was their undoing.
As the Iron Curtain crumbled at the end of the '80s, Americans were clearly looking for a peace dividend, and their growing sense of security as the Evil Empire self—destructed made them comfortable with a smaller government. This paved the way for welfare reform and fiscal restraint during the '90s.
However, after 9/11, this radically changed, and the Administration took full advantage of it in the subsequent two election cycles. With this growing sense of insecurity came the public's need for government to protect it. Correctly positioned, Team Bush and the Republicans seemed more capable of accomplishing this goal than their brethren on the opposite side of the aisle.
Unfortunately, this veneer began to peel off over the summer of 2005 as Americans watched thousands of their brothers and sisters seemingly discarded by their government in New Orleans. Regardless of how poorly the media covered the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, or how deplorably the Democrats used the nightmare for political gain, it did indeed appear to a startled nation that it wasn't as safe as it had thought.
Certainly, mounting American casualties in Iraq, and the pictures on television from this region each and every day added to the nation's deteriorating view of the Adminstration's security capabilities. Nuclear tests in North Korea, as well as chest—pounding from high—ranking lunatics in Venezuela and Iran didn't help either.
Adding to these fears were a president and vice president that seemed to not be paying attention, while continuing to express faith in a war plan that rightly or wrongly most felt needed abandonment. When questioned on such issues, Republican leaders would reject the public's concerns, and posit that they had matters well under control despite the nation's misgivings. Rather than soothing the growing angst, this added to the perception of a government out of touch.
In essence, the Republicans succeeded in 2002 and 2004 by tapping into the nation's insecurities. Conversely, they failed in 2006 by not assuaging them.
Don't Knock Yourself Out
Compounding the public's growing lack of faith was the Congress's inability to respond to any of the nation's urgent needs. Fully eight months after the illegal immigration issue exploded, the Republicans and the White House still were unable to enact legislation that came close to adequately dealing with the problem.
In a 'what have you done for me lately' world, such an inability to produce is unacceptable. Much like a board of directors dissatisfied with its CEO, Americans decided to bring in a new management team, and send the old one packing.
Of course, the Democrats better not rest on their laurels, or allow the celebration to go on too long, for the electorate has made it very clear that they expect performance from their leaders, and they expect it now. If we are to glean anything from Tuesday's results, it is this.
In a world full of cell phones, PDA's, laptop computers, 24—hour cable news stations, talk radio, and blogs, the velocity of the dissemination of information is astounding. As a result, the new hires are not going to be given a long honeymoon.
If they have any doubts about this, they should ask the Republicans that have just been instructed to clean out their offices by the end of the year.
Noel Sheppard is contributing writer to the American Thinker. He is also contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org, and contributing writer to its Business & Media Institute. Noel welcomes feedback.