Monday, January 25, 2010

The non-realignment of America

If you remember this time last year, the nation was beaming like a child with a new puppy. Well, at least 52 percent of voters were beaming, along with the Washington press corps, most newspaper editors, 90 percent of university faculty, and all the baristas at the free-trade coffee houses.

They were absolutely giddy with excitement over the election of President Obama. Gone were the dark ages of the Bush years. The isolation of America would end as we assumed our rightful place as citizens of the world. The problems of America would be solved with the sheer power of the Obama intellect. Radical Islam, Iran, al-Qaeda would all succumb to the power of Obama's diplomacy. Not everyone was quite this bad, but many people invested too much hope in the presumed genius of this one man, and only now are they seeing through the hopey-changey messages into the reality of our situation.

Anyone who did not see this coming, well let's just say they may have been swept up in the mania.

Along with the true believers, there was another large block of the electorate who voted for President Obama. These people were not struck by his pure awesomeness, they were angry with George W Bush and the Republicans who had abandoned their principals. They thought they would give this new guy a chance, heck, Obama could hardly do worse than the big spending Republicans had. Besides, candidate Obama was talking about bipartisanship, transparency, not raising taxes on anyone making under $250K, and listening to the people, what's not to like?

A year down this road the first group, the twenty five percent of the public who adore Obama, almost to the point of worship, are still on board the hope and change express. Even as it is goes skittering off the tracks. The other twenty five percent who voted for the President are now coming to the realization they have been taken by a smooth-talking, inexperienced, idealistic, Chicago politician. For all the promise and potential they saw in candidate Obama, the actual policies of this President stand in stark contrast to the promises of the campaign trail. No one likes to be taken.

This will not come as a news flash to most of you, but when you run as one thing, then govern as another, people get angry. When the policies you enact do not deliver on your promises, but in fact make things much worse, people tend to get very angry. Which brings us to the last three statewide elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

If you also remember back to this time last year, you will remember the pundits and the main stream press decrying the death of conservatism and the Republican party. My, how a year has changed things. If you had asked any ten people on the street, on inauguration day, if they thought there would be Republican governors elected in Virginia, in deep-blue New Jersey, and a Republican elected as Senator in Massachusetts, they would have laughed, and rightly so.

Everyone is trying to read the tealeaves of these elections, and make some sort of determination of where the voters are headed. I loved watching MSNBC on the night Scott Brown was elected. I thought Chris Mathews was going to cry, and I was waiting for Keith Olbermann to explode in fury. They think the reason Republicans won these statewide races is due to Democrats not being liberal enough! Talk about blinded by ideology.

On the other hand, Republicans are thinking they just need to say, I am not Obama, and they will win this November. Just as the elections of 2006 and 2008 proved to democrats, being against something is not the same as being for something. Republicans are poised to make huge gains in the 2010 election cycle, but as I like to ask, then what?

If this last election cycle has taught us anything, you had better say what you mean, and mean what you say. The days of big spending, big government Republicans is over. A new crop of young, conservative leaders is coming of age, and if you are a Republican incumbent, you had better be ready for a primary fight. Many in the Republican leadership say that a safe Republican seat should not be contested in a primary fight, I say that is a load of manure. To steal a line from Scott Brown, these seats do not belong to you, they belong to the people. As hard as it is to imagine, we might find someone with better ideas, who is better connected with the people back home. It's called representation.

The 2010 election, as well as the 2012 cycle will be all about ideas, not personalities. Whoever has the better ideas, ideas that resonate with America, ideas that have a proven record of success, will win. Many in the GOP have forgotten these ideas; Washington DC thinking has corrupted them. They need to prove themselves to their constituents, not by words, but by deeds. The back room deals, the 3AM votes to the highest bidder have not gone unnoticed. If they talk one way at home, and vote another way in DC, they will be joining ranks of the unemployed.

Many people misinterpreted the election of Barack Obama. 2008 was not a realignment of American politics; it was one part anger at the previous administration, one part fatigue for an unpopular war, and one part bait-and-switch from a very polished Chicago politician. Throw in the huge home-field advantage of a fawning media and it not surprising in the least Barack Obama was elected. That was then, this is now, America is waking up.

The only hope Democrats have of saving a majority in Congress is.... well, I'll let them come up with their own strategy. Maybe more spending, more government, and more rights for terrorists will be a winning strategy for 2010. Good luck with that.

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