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The Revolution Part Deux: Now, *Earn* It

In which we channel Peggy Noonan

Of the many things the American Revolution gave us, the weapons we would use if we ever needed to fight another one were the most significant. And, they were locked, loaded, and fired at point-blank range in Massachusetts last night: ballot boxes.

That this latest “revolutionary skirmish” was engaged where the original Revolution began is not lost on most of us…but of course, VA and NJ could also be given honorable mention. And with all the “Scott heard round the world” sloganeering the past 24 hours, one might easily forget that this war started well before the Massachusetts special election that will send a Massachusetts Republican to Washington for the first time in many many many years.

Polls everywhere have routinely (and increasingly) shown that Americans are not happy. Forget Left v. Right for a minute and focus on the overwhelming disdain BOTH sides of the electorate out here in the real world have for Washington’s shenanigans. The pundits, of course, want us to believe this (Scott Brown) was issue-based (health care, jobs, and the economy for example) but that sells the American people short; our leaders are not interested in what we’ve hired them to do for us so long as they think their reach for (or hold on) power might be at risk. THIS is unacceptable to most Americans, and (starting in VA and NJ and now MA) we’ve declared war against our modern-day aristocracy.

OK, perhaps a little dramatic, but consider Peggy Noonan for just a minute (this piece BEFORE the Brown victory):

In a way Mr. Obama made the same mistake President Bush did on immigration, producing a big, mammoth, comprehensive bill when the public mood was for small, discrete steps in what might reasonably seem the right direction.

The public in 2009 would have been happy to see a simple bill that mandated insurance companies offer coverage without respect to previous medical conditions. The administration could have had that—and the victory of it—last winter.

Instead, they were greedy for glory.

It was not worth it—not worth the town-hall uprisings and the bleeding of centrist support, not worth the rebranding of the president from center-left leader to leftist leader, not worth the proof it provided that the public’s concerns and the administration’s are not the same, not worth a wasted first year that should have been given to two things and two things only: economic matters and national security.

No, Peggy-not worth it.

Noonan, by the way, sells her thesis even more substantively in a separate piece that says as much about the whole of the Political class as it does about her intended target -Barack Obama:

There is a disconnect, a detachment, a distance between the president’s preoccupations and the concerns of the people. There’s a disconnect between his policy proposals and the people’s sense, as expressed in polls, of what the immediate problems are.

I’m not referring to what is being called the president’s rhetorical disconnect. In this criticism, he is not emotional enough when he speaks, he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he is aloof, like a lab technician observing the movements within a petri dish called America. It may be true that this doesn’t help him, but so what? In a successful presidency, his cool demeanor would be called an interesting facet, not a problem. And we don’t really need presidents to move us, when you think about it. We need them to lead, and in the right direction.

But this is not a successful presidency right now, is it Peggy? And what the Coakley-Brown race should teach us is that Americans are finally standing up and saying “enough is enough.”

The celebration over Brown’s victory begins to wane now, and operatives and strategists have pulled up stake and moved on to the next battlefield. They leave in their wake an electorate that’s just starting to get a taste for victory…victory can be like crack you know. Locals in Massachusetts will revel a while longer, but we move ahead to the mid-terms now and we need desperately to avoid un-learning the lessons Massachusetts just taught us: change isn’t based on party affiliation, rather it is based on getting politicians to actually represent their constituents.

Noonan’s intention with her piece titled “The Risk of Catastrophic Victory” is to remind Democrats that getting a health care win might turn out really badly for them. She goes on to suggest that, should Republicans be to blame for a health care defeat, they TOO might find a negative backlash awaiting them in November. It’s the closing passage that strikes me as a clarion call – not to either party, but to American voters as we proceed into the next fight:

Which gets us to the Republicans. The question isn’t whether they’ll win seats in the House and Senate this year, and the question isn’t even how many. The question is whether the party will be worthy of victory, whether it learned from its losses in 2006 and ’08, whether it deserves leadership. Whether Republicans are a worthy alternative. Whether, in short, they are serious.
[snip]
Republican political professionals in Washington assume a coming victory. They do not see that 2010 could be a catastrophic victory for them. If they seize back power without clear purpose, if they are not serious, if they do the lazy and cynical thing by just sitting back and letting the Democrats lose, three bad things will happen. They will contribute to the air of cynicism in which our citizens marinate. Their lack of seriousness will be discerned by the Republican base, whose enthusiasm and generosity will be blunted. And the Republicans themselves will be left unable to lead when their time comes, because operating cynically will allow the public to view them cynically, which will lessen the chance they will be able to do anything constructive.

In this sense, the cynical view—we can sit back and wait—is naive. The idealistic view—we must stand for things and move on them now—is shrewder.

Political professionals are pugilistic, and often see politics in terms of fight movies: “Rocky,” “Raging Bull.” They should be thinking now of a different one, of Tom Hanks at the end of “Saving Private Ryan.” “Earn this,” he said to the man whose life he’d helped save.

Earn this. Be worthy of it. Be serious.

Such is the advice we can offer to our fellow voters. People rallied, people donated, people got on the phones, and knocked on doors-because they were tired of being innocent bystanders and casualties of the collateral damage inflicted by feuding party elites; they spoke up and hope now that they (via Brown) have begun to take back control of how their wishes are being represented in Washington.

This needs to be repeated in every corner of the country come November-we’ll see which party is in the majority later, but at least we’ll know we put them there to do our bidding instead of just sitting back and letting everyone ELSE do it for us.

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