What we must learn from our past
I was as big a fan of Mitt Romney as any other fanboy. I am not a Mormon but I’ve supported Mitt since 2007 for his pragmatism, intelligence, and ability to govern in a hostile environment. Despite my oft proclaimed support for what he’d been doing in this campaign, a lot of what he did made me cringe. But what made me cringe is actually a Republican Party problem and a current Conservative movement problem. In my humble opinion of course.
I got into politics during some of the most exciting time for being Republican/Conservative. In 1993 I spent hours every day watching CSPAN and Republican Party coalescing around Newt Gingrich. I was a senior in highschool, and it was only 3 years since I came to US from the USSR. I naturally felt a strong kinship to the Conservative ideas of Smaller Government, Lower Taxation, Balanced Budgets and Welfare Reform. But what really attracted me to Newt Gingrich was not just the slogans and the core principles. It was the articulated ideas and plans. Newt Gingrich created Contract with America where he laid out concrete steps of what the Republican Party would do if people gave it a chance to govern. What a novel idea! Lay out a concrete and well thought out plan and people will take you seriously. As a conservative College Republican in 1994, I was proud of our party and proud to stand for what Newt Gingrich was doing in congress.
Skipping the many years in between we arrive to the current Republican Party and Conservative movement. Our “leaders” are mostly reduced to spouting the old simpleton slogans of: Smaller Government, Reduce the Tax Burden, Job Creators, Growth Economy, Cut Spending, Stop Illegal Immigration, Repeal Obamacare, War on Terror, 9-9-9, Energy Independence, Save Medicare, Create 12 Million Jobs, blah blah blah. All good slogans no doubt, but these are the same tired “ideas” that we’ve been spouting for the last decade and some a lot longer with few if any real achievements. Our Deficit is huge, Debt is skyrocketing, Economy is sputtering, Illegal immigrants are in the same situation, Medicare and Social Security are unaddressed, etc.
It seems that we’ve forgotten what it is like to actually lead. To lead a leader must have a serious plan. A serious plan is a path of how we can move the country towards our principles. This plan must be more than a bunch of tired and vacuous slogans and a fuzzy idea of what we might do in the future. It is something that the leader can propose and the movement or a party can get behind. It must be concrete and thoughtful, detailed and realistic, with goals that are achievable if we are given the ability to govern. It can be extremely powerful if the entire Party can get behind it. We could address everything from Illegal Immigration to Education to Cutting Spending to an alternative Healthcare plan. On the Obamacare we never seemed to have anything more than the vague notion of repealing it, which face it would’ve probably not happened, unless we had something decent to replace it with. On Cutting Spending we never detailed what exactly we would cut. On tax cuts we never specifically said what deductions would help offset the lower tax rates. And on and on. If we had a plan behind every single slogan, a plan that most of us could comfortably get behind, that would look serious to our electorate simply because it would be deliberated, well laid out and detailed, and backed up by facts and research… Well then we wouldn’t need to be blaming turnout and shifting demographics and Sandy. Because we would actually have something so strong distinguishing us from this failure in chief that we would sweep the nonsense away in a real landslide just like we did in 1994. On the power of ideas and leadership, and not on empty sloganeering, debate jabs, and negative advertising.
With Mitt I was reduced to hoping that people would like him more than Obama due to Obama’s failures, and not due to anything truly positive and realistic coming from Mitt himself. I was reduced to hoping that once Mitt got into power he would maybe figure something out and that his core principles (which are good) would guide him to a better economic future for our country. I was supposed to take Mitt on faith, and I did because I knew he had similar core ideals to mine. But it was not enough for the majority of people to believe in him.
Our next leaders must come up with something tangible for people to see and know and understand that whatever that plan is, it is a serious attempt to deal with the problems we face, and not just a bunch of throwaway slogans.