Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And so it begins...

My first post will simply be a reflection Tuesday's election (enjoy...or disregard):

Republicans, bloodied and bruised from a tumultuous year that saw ‘chaos’ erupt in Iraq and scandal engulf members of the House of Representatives, surrendered control of both houses of Congress on Tuesday after a decade reign that may best be summed up as squandered opportunity. As election night loomed, pundits, prognosticators and the ‘average Joe’ joined in one chorus proclaiming that our nation was ripe for change. For once, the talking heads got it right. When the tallies rolled in and the dust settled, change came and Republicans were left to bury their political dead.

Democrats appeared as giddy school children on national television, no doubt embracing the electoral waive as a mandate–a referendum on President Bush, Iraq and endemic corruption. Leadership on both sides of the aisles offered calculated rhetoric aimed at either energizing or consoling, but lost in the speeches of victory and concession was any real, substantive thought. Alarmingly, the messages conveyed in the waning hours of Tuesday were not merely emotional outpourings from months of hard work, but were themselves reflective of the political meelay waged this election season, and ultimately, of the political atmosphere in our country, on the whole. Salacious advertisement, polarizing talking points and demagoguery have subsumed the need for genuine ideas, fertile cooperation and diligent action.

The Republican party, comprised of two sectors--those who champion moral issues and those philosophical Republicans who forward economic and political freedom (no doubt with substantial overlap in many instances)–has lost sight of its base. On the moral front, Republican leadership went to the well once too often, thinking it could again utilize issues like gay marriage to fight the rising tide of disillusion. Yet, the party, which routinely touts its allegiance to faith, family and freedom, has done too little on such moral issues for socially conservative voters. On the other hand, a party that once stood for smaller government and fiscal conservation has imploded with unprecedented spending, infringement upon state sovereignty and personal liberty, and transparent succumbing to special interests. The result is a middle-class base, both economically and socially conservative, dumbfounded by a government all too eager to talk the talk, but seldom ready to walk the walk. Lost on Republican leadership was that the base might actually expect results consistent with the party’s longstanding ideals. Combined with the war in Iraq, these factors presented Democrats with an opportunity to strike.

Democratic success this election hinged, not on what the public perceived the Democrats offered as a party, but on the spread of pervasive discord with the current administration. Democrats engineered their coup brilliantly by fielding moderate candidates in traditional ‘red’ states in the Midwest, South and Southwest–candidates steeped in faith, many of whom presented themselves as pro-life, pro-gun advocates. These candidates, by in large, were selected to neutralize the ‘moral voters,’ and focus the election on Republican shortcomings. Lost on the voters in those states was the great divide between the values purportedly represented by the local, prevailing Democratic candidates and the values espoused by the leadership of the Democratic party. The enticement of the socially moderate alternative blurred the reality that those behind the wheel of the Democratic party have long charted a course in a direction far from the ‘ideal’ embraced by many in those regions. Lost on the voters in those states was that the Democratic party had offered no solution to the problems in Iraq, had given no indication as to what it would do in defense of our borders, had made no representations that it would act to keep taxes low and the economy growing, and had given no guarantees that its liberal leadership would act in moderation when it came to those social issues so important to moderate voters.

Democrats will surely shout from the highest mountain about their rebirth, but the end game of this election, is that the average voter is left feeling unrepresented and increasingly disillusioned. Lost are the days when the men and women elected to serve were statesmen. Lost are the days when it was more important to do the right thing than to prevail. Lost are the days when fighting for ideals in hallowed halls of Congress was more important than fundraising for the next election. To some degree, lost are the days when Americans had the fortitude and the knowledge to demand more from those we entrust to guide us. Perhaps I am an idealistic fool and never such a day existed, but I am a fool that still subscribes to the idea that America may yet be a shining city on a hill–however, lost is my faith that the current incarnation of either party can take us there.