The Joe Miller Lesson Applied to the GOP Congressional Leadership

On the cusp of what is trending toward a significant Republican victory in November, the current GOP congressional leadership has yet to make a compelling case that they're ready to lead a majority party. They appear satisfied to run as "Not Democrats." That may be enough to win, and maybe win big, but will it be enough to keep winning in 2012 and beyond? 

The current GOP leadership would be wise to heed the lesson of Joe Miller's victory over Senator Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary in Alaska and announce that they'll step aside if Republicans gain a majority in one or both Houses of Congress. Congressman John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell do not represent the leadership of a GOP with a longer-term future. They are the generals of the last political war, where they lost. And their party, if it wins, will have done so mostly because the Democrats lost support. 

You've heard the axiom that generals prepare to fight the next war as they fought the last.

In April 1861, General of the Army Winfield Scott, who'd been involved in every American conflict since the War of 1812, proposed the "Anaconda Plan" to President Lincoln. It was Scott's grand strategy to form a blockade of the Confederacy that encompassed sending troops and ships down the Mississippi River and blockading the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the United States. The idea was to choke off the South's materiel ability to make war. Scott, like most Northern leaders at the time, underestimated the South's belligerency. 

Scott's protégé, Major General George B. McClellan, became the executor of Scott's plan, though modified. McClellan knew how to prep an army for war, but not how to make war. Generals Grant and Sherman would eventually lead the fight and win the Civil War. McClellan was an historical placeholder until Sam Grant and "Uncle Billy" emerged as the North's premier war fighters. They envisioned complete victory. McClellan envisioned the absence of defeat.

Like McClellan, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have been historical placeholders as the GOP maneuvers through an internal struggle to define what it stands for in opposition to a Democratic Party firmly controlled by its left wing. Let's face it - McConnell and Boehner are not the leaders of the GOP's future. They fought and lost the last war against the Democrats, and they appear generally disengaged in the battle underway to define the GOP of the future.

Pundits bemoan the polarization of the parties as reflecting an alarming ideological split within the nation. Some of those same pundits once criticized the two parties for being essentially indistinguishable one from the other. With each successive victory of conservative GOP candidates like Joe Miller, the indistinguishable days are passing away, and the nation will be better for it. For we the people are engaged in this ideological struggle for the future of America, since it's our children and grandchildren's future, and the competing visions of America are becoming clearer each day.

The lesson of Joe Miller's victory over Lisa Murkowski should be a wake-up call to establishment Republicans that the political plates beneath the crust of partisan politics have shifted. Conservatives are done voting for candidates just because they have an "R" beside their names -- even if they're entrenched incumbents. In some states, like Maine, it won't matter; it's been a long time since "As Maine goes, so goes the Nation" was true.  

The seniority system that has long driven the congressional leadership pecking order is anachronistic. It might have worked, or it might have seemed to work, when the nation was flush with money and the inefficiency of earmarks, misappropriations, and rampant government waste were masked by an ever-expanding GDP. But those days are gone. Representative Charlie Rangel is the poster child for what happens when the worst pols flop-to-the-top via seniority.  

Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, the nonviolent ideological warfare underway in American politics is the political equivalent of thermonuclear war. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been transparent in espousing their party's position, Boehner and McConnell less so for Republicans. Both lack the requisite articulation to be effective leaders of a party in power.   

In comparison, congressional Democrats have a clear plan for America. Their problem is that most Americans don't support it. Unfortunately, congressional Republicans have a plan for America that many of us don't clearly perceive. And one of the most important functions of leadership in any endeavor -- be it war, business, religion, or politics -- is to clarify the objective and make a compelling case for achieving it.

Should the GOP win in November, the ideological war for the nation's future will be more fully engaged. And it will take new leadership among congressional Republicans to turn the tide and begin winning. 
On the cusp of what is trending toward a significant Republican victory in November, the current GOP congressional leadership has yet to make a compelling case that they're ready to lead a majority party. They appear satisfied to run as "Not Democrats." That may be enough to win, and maybe win big, but will it be enough to keep winning in 2012 and beyond? 

The current GOP leadership would be wise to heed the lesson of Joe Miller's victory over Senator Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary in Alaska and announce that they'll step aside if Republicans gain a majority in one or both Houses of Congress. Congressman John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell do not represent the leadership of a GOP with a longer-term future. They are the generals of the last political war, where they lost. And their party, if it wins, will have done so mostly because the Democrats lost support. 

You've heard the axiom that generals prepare to fight the next war as they fought the last.

In April 1861, General of the Army Winfield Scott, who'd been involved in every American conflict since the War of 1812, proposed the "Anaconda Plan" to President Lincoln. It was Scott's grand strategy to form a blockade of the Confederacy that encompassed sending troops and ships down the Mississippi River and blockading the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the United States. The idea was to choke off the South's materiel ability to make war. Scott, like most Northern leaders at the time, underestimated the South's belligerency. 

Scott's protégé, Major General George B. McClellan, became the executor of Scott's plan, though modified. McClellan knew how to prep an army for war, but not how to make war. Generals Grant and Sherman would eventually lead the fight and win the Civil War. McClellan was an historical placeholder until Sam Grant and "Uncle Billy" emerged as the North's premier war fighters. They envisioned complete victory. McClellan envisioned the absence of defeat.

Like McClellan, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have been historical placeholders as the GOP maneuvers through an internal struggle to define what it stands for in opposition to a Democratic Party firmly controlled by its left wing. Let's face it - McConnell and Boehner are not the leaders of the GOP's future. They fought and lost the last war against the Democrats, and they appear generally disengaged in the battle underway to define the GOP of the future.

Pundits bemoan the polarization of the parties as reflecting an alarming ideological split within the nation. Some of those same pundits once criticized the two parties for being essentially indistinguishable one from the other. With each successive victory of conservative GOP candidates like Joe Miller, the indistinguishable days are passing away, and the nation will be better for it. For we the people are engaged in this ideological struggle for the future of America, since it's our children and grandchildren's future, and the competing visions of America are becoming clearer each day.

The lesson of Joe Miller's victory over Lisa Murkowski should be a wake-up call to establishment Republicans that the political plates beneath the crust of partisan politics have shifted. Conservatives are done voting for candidates just because they have an "R" beside their names -- even if they're entrenched incumbents. In some states, like Maine, it won't matter; it's been a long time since "As Maine goes, so goes the Nation" was true.  

The seniority system that has long driven the congressional leadership pecking order is anachronistic. It might have worked, or it might have seemed to work, when the nation was flush with money and the inefficiency of earmarks, misappropriations, and rampant government waste were masked by an ever-expanding GDP. But those days are gone. Representative Charlie Rangel is the poster child for what happens when the worst pols flop-to-the-top via seniority.  

Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, the nonviolent ideological warfare underway in American politics is the political equivalent of thermonuclear war. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been transparent in espousing their party's position, Boehner and McConnell less so for Republicans. Both lack the requisite articulation to be effective leaders of a party in power.   

In comparison, congressional Democrats have a clear plan for America. Their problem is that most Americans don't support it. Unfortunately, congressional Republicans have a plan for America that many of us don't clearly perceive. And one of the most important functions of leadership in any endeavor -- be it war, business, religion, or politics -- is to clarify the objective and make a compelling case for achieving it.

Should the GOP win in November, the ideological war for the nation's future will be more fully engaged. And it will take new leadership among congressional Republicans to turn the tide and begin winning. 

RECENT VIDEOS