Is our leadership paying attention? Do they not understand that Americans want our problems solved, that we want progress and reasons to be optimistic about the future? We are tired of sloganeering, and tired of political jousting. We elect representatives to do a job – govern the country wisely – and we will continue to fire those who do not measure up.
I am astonished that the election -- and the exit polling -- appears to have made no impression whatsoever on our Congress. Voters did not vote for Republicans – they voted against those in power. They are angry about our country’s economic woes and chucked those held responsible, as well as those unable to fix what is wrong. In the next election, if Republicans don’t appear capable of moving forward, they will get chucked overboard as well—you can count on it.
I have spoken to hundreds of people since the election – on both sides of the political fence and from all walks of life. To a person they are dismayed with our lack of direction. They talk about our spiraling debts, and shake their heads in dismay over our hapless leaders. Most were cheered by the initial report out of the deficit commission – since it seemed balanced, and since it took a bold but reasoned approach to returning our country’s economy to a solid footing. They were dismayed by the immediate knee-jerk opposition from both sides of the aisle.
Do Republicans seriously think our country’s fiscal mess will be resolved without some increases in taxes?
Do liberals honestly expect to close the budget gap without some cuts in entitlements spending? Cannot some wise men and women arise who are willing to do the country’s business?
The media is a favorite scapegoat of those hoping for reasonableness. Blaming pundits on the left and right for the polarization taking place in the country is overdone—they reflect the mood of the voters. However, they also influence the country, and could offer up a more constructive voice than we have heard of late.
For example, the inflamed responses to the proposals from Deficit Commission heads Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles were disheartening. Few were willing to envision compromise; even fewer could embrace “shared sacrifice.” Surely there are some grown-ups amongst up who can see that the United States really is heading towards disaster.
The Obama administration is weakened and in any case transfixed by a potential trouncing in 2012. The president is not a leader; he is a campaigner.
The Republicans should take advantage of the administration’s disarray, and present to the country their leadership credentials. They must, in two short years, evolve from the Party of No to the Party of Know-how. Here are some short-term objectives that might help:
1. Drop opposition to the New START treaty. A CNN poll showed that more than 70% of Americans think the treaty should pass – let it pass. Few Americans care about the nuclear weapons cutbacks and even fewer understand why the Republicans are objecting to it. Let Obama declare victory here, and avoid being tagged as universally obstructionist. Obama is not going to be re-elected for having concluded a nuclear weapons treaty with the Russians.
2. Compromise on the Bush tax cuts. Agree to extend the current rates indefinitely for the middle class and temporarily (for two or three years) for higher income categories. Who can fault this? If the economy is still weak at the expiration date the lower rates can persist. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear to most observers that rates will eventually have to rise, with the increased burden clearly on higher earners.
3. Propose immigration reform. This is a topic that needs to be addressed; our current stalemate is absurd and depressing. Moreover, Republicans cannot afford to lose the Hispanic vote forever. A balanced “earned citizenship” program would be appealing to most Americans, and would show Republicans to be problem solvers.
4. Push a bill through the House to rescind Obamacare. This should continue to be a front-page issue. Nearly all new information about the law is negative. The more Republicans can focus the country on the onerous and expensive new mandates the better. It’s a great platform for 2012 – and the law should be abolished.
5. Take on Eric Holder. Insist on a new formal understanding requiring that Islamic terrorists be tried by military tribunals. Relying on civil courts to adequately prosecute jihadists is beyond stupid, and pointless. I doubt very much that Usama bin Laden and his followers will be dissuaded by our noble experiments with the law.
6. Build a detailed plan to cut back spending while at the same time bolstering our country’s businesses. The economy is still fragile and job creation should be the number one goal of the president and of Congress. Failure on this front – even if it helps President Obama politically – is not an option. Americans are smart enough to apportion blame and credit for progress.
The voters rejected candidates who had failed to do the job they were elected to do, as well as those newcomers with poor credentials. Instead, they voted for those who appeared committed to solving our nation’s problems. They will do so again.