campaign rhetoric

A Post-Partisan President?

***Originally published in The Harvard Citizen, 9/30/09***

Nothing has become more ubiquitous in American politics than pundits making baseless predictions about the future. Democratic ‘experts’ determined that the Clinton machine would simply be too much for Barack Obama to overcome. Just over six months before John McCain all but clinched his party’s nomination for president, ‘expert’ Charlie Cook proclaimed that, “…McCain’s campaign is over.” In 2005, ‘expert’ Dick Morris published an entire book entitled, “Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race.”

After November’s election, pundits fell in love with a new fallacy: the election of Barack Obama represented a shift toward a post-partisan America exemplified by his ability to garner support from scores of Independents and Republicans. Commentators contrasted his campaign rhetoric with the divisive last eight years and lauded his Inaugural Address in which he called for “…an end to the petty grievances and false promises…that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

Such assertions were laughable. What does it even mean to be post-partisan? Given his position as the leader of the Democratic Party, it was not logically possible for Obama to be post-partisan when, by definition, he was a partisan. He was elected as a Democrat, would continue to lead the Democrats, and would therefore govern as a Democrat.

This point was codified just two days after his election with the appointment of Rahm Emanuel to serve as his Chief of Staff. Emanuel – a feisty, partisan, and effective operative from the Clinton years and respected congressman and Democratic strategist during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives – was a great pick to help the president push his ambitious agenda through the tricky corridors of Capitol Hill. But post-partisan it was not. With a fresh mandate from the American people, President Obama had the ability to select a deputy who would not draw the ire of Republicans. Instead, he chose someone who could ease relations with fellow Democrats, choosing partisan efficiency over bipartisan symbolism.

His first big legislative push, the stimulus bill, was an opportunity to pass legislation without regard to party politics. The handling of this issue would set the tone for his presidency. Yet, to avoid conflict with members of the Democratic caucus, the President deferred to the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, allowing party leaders in Congress to write the bill.

As could be expected, the bill did not win Republican support. While both parties recognized the need to pass a stimulus package, the Democratic-written bill contained a large amount of pork for narrow interests of specific members of Congress. A bill stripped of this pork could have won Republican support, but Obama’s desire to avoid antagonizing members of his own party caused him to sign a bill that could have been vastly improved.

Defenders of the President argue that Republicans are obstructionist and are seeking to derail Obama’s agenda for purely political reasons. While this may hold true for a select few members of the party, the vast majority of Republicans take their duty seriously and seek to advocate on behalf of their constituents each and every day. It is not helpful to the debate to impute the motives of the opposition.

The only way to have true post-partisanship in Washington would be to elect an Independent candidate for President, one not beholden to the interests and pressures of either party. Such a scenario could provide the ultimate test of this country’s ingrained two-party system. But would a president without a party be able to govern?

Students of history could cite the difficult terms of Presidents John Tyler and Andrew Johnson, who both struggled to accomplish their goals due to their ambiguous party status. Perhaps, nearly 150 years later, it is time to give it another shot. What could an engaging, charismatic leader such as Barack Obama accomplish as president if he did not have the shackles of the Democratic Party hampering his every move? What could he be advocating if he did not have to worry about earning his party’s nomination again in 2012?

To the President, I would offer this advice: resign from the Democratic Party. Only then will you be able to live up to the rhetoric of your campaign and act as the president of all of the American people, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike. Then, we can fairly judge you on your promise to unite this country and put the politics of old behind.

If you are not willing to do that, then please bring your rhetoric in line with your governance. Acknowledge who got you here and that yes you, like those before you, do what is necessary to accomplish your goals in the partisan political environment that is Washington. Begin to push through your legislative agenda using force, if necessary. Elections have consequences, and it is about time you started using your mandate.

YOU CAN TURN RIGHT ON RED BUT DON'T TURN LEFT TO GET ELECTED

With the holidays upon us, family, friends, faith and other personal aspects in life come to the forefront, as they should. Although the world does not stop rotating, priorities do shift, at least for a few brief hours. Among one of the first fields of endeavor to experience a temporary cessation in hostilities is politics.

Considering the amount of headlines pointing out the treachery and lack of sincerity often associated with politics, a stop, even a brief stop, in the business of politics is warranted during this more spiritually sincere time of the year.

With the winding down of its activity, one becomes very reflective about politics. It makes you stop and think……what is it all for?

Is all the posturing, deal cutting, eloquent speeches and snappy catch phrases done for the betterment of the people? Or is it done for the personal advantage of the deal cutters, eloquent speakers and snappy phrase makers? Is it all done to achieve personal power or acclaim? Is all the demonstrated frustration and anger involved in the process caused because of the failure to pass a particular piece of legislation that benefit’s the people or is it arrived at more because of personal failure to be credited with passing a piece of legislation?

Politics, can be a wonderful arena of ideas for maintaining a prosperous and civilized civilization or it can be a cesspool of humanities worst motivations.

It is that way because politics is comprised of politicians and politicians are only human. Some are good while others are just inappropriate or downright bad. So it is only natural that as human beings, their policies are also a mix of good and bad.

Being human, politicians bring to the table all the human frailties that we as humans possess.antnoleftturnshtma2

The hope is that the best ideas and directions win the day due to there being a preponderance of humanities best people involved in the process. Unfortunately, I am afraid that many of today’s elected officials in the game are not humanities best, most sincere and altruistic people. I believe many of them simply want the power and perceived admiration of the masses. Many are in it simply for themselves. Take Illinois’ Governor Rod Blagojevich for instance.

So this leads us to wonder how we tell the difference between someone who wants to win for the sake of winning or to make a true change for the betterment of al the people.

The coming year will give New Jerseyans the chance to answer that question.

As the state gears up for a gubernatorial election, Republicans have to choose a nominee to run against liberal Jon Corzine.

Popular thinking would lead one to believe that, given the polls in New Jersey, a liberal approach would be the more expedient path to victory for Republicans in Jersey.

If any Republican runs for governor with that approach, than I will know one thing about them. I will know that they are not sincere.

The Republican who runs to the left in this election is the Republican who wants power for their own benefit and to win for the sake of winning, not for the sake of improving the lives of others.

The Republican who tries to avoid offending illegal immigrants by not demanding a strict enforcement of laws regarding their illegal presence and who avoids taking control away from the unions like the National Education Association and giving more power to parents is the candidate afraid of standing up to the influence that those who impede progress may wield in the election.

Any candidate who allows the fear of losing an election to take precedence over doing what is right, is not running for governor for the right reasons. They would be demonstrating that they are running for themselves, not for the people.

The Republican nominee for Governor must be willing to stand up to the power brokers who have held the state hostage through secretive union negotiations and outrageous pension plans.

The Republican nominee for Governor must be willing to address the fact that municipalities in New Jersey must begin to consolidate. Our nominee needs to demonstrate that fewer governments throughout the state means less burden on the taxpayer and less of an affordability problem for residents.

Of course no local municipal king wants to give up their kingdom, but the people must hear about the advantages of reducing the costly proliferation of governments. They must be made aware of the fact that government has become the problem and that fewer governments in the state will lead to less of those things we don’t need. Like less government corruption, fewer operating costs, fewer bureaucrats and bureaucratic entanglements .

We need a nominee who will challenge that which hinders progress, not a candidate who goes along to get along.

Some might say that that is no way to win an election. They would argue that by offending the hands that organize volunteers and pours the mothers milk of any political campaign, money, into an election, is a road map to defeat.

Conservative Ohio Congressman Joh Ashbrook

If that is true, than I suggest we go down in defeat.

I would rather see Republicans lose by standing up for what we believe in than win by offering the same policies that liberals have provided us with.

I believe, like former Congressman John Ashbrook, who when asked why he often stood against the popular tide, explained that by representing what he believes to be right, the only thing he could lose was his seat in Congress.

For Congressman Ashbrook ideals meant more than power or winning an election.

His strong, uncompromising defense of conservative ideals did not always make him a popular figure.

Elected to Congress from Ohio in 1960, he came to Washington just as liberalism and big government was about to sweep out from Washington and through the rest of the nation. Yet he consistently stood against the tide of the time and articulated a hard line against communism, big government, social engineering and discrimination.

By 1970 a poll considered Ashbrook one of the 5 most influential conservative leaders in the nation.

In Congress he consistently added amendments to legislation important to liberals and successfully blocked their most detrimental effects.

In 1972 Congressman Ashbrook found himself fed up with the leadership of his own party.

Richard Nixon was President and despite his campaigning as a conservative, Ashbrook saw Nixon governing more to the left than the right. So in typical fashion, John Ashbrook opposed accepted popular thinking of the time. He ran against Richard Nixon for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Many Republicans were outraged that he would dare challenge “our” sitting Republican President but Asbrook wanted Republicans to be true to our principles and he believed that along with neglecting to fulfill campaign promises, Nixon was weakening our already lagging military.

As we know, Nixon was re-nominated but John Ashbrook was content with his poor showing in the primaries. Of it he said “I spread my message. So I guess you don’t have to be on the winning side to be victorious.” From then on, not only did John Ashbrook continue to win the favor of the voters in his congressional district, he also continued to be the voice of the conservative cause.

By 1980 many in America realized that mediocrity was not what we needed in our leaders and along with John Ashbrook, people turned to Ronald Reagan for leadership. For almost two decades John Ashbrook swam against the tide. He never gave up or took the path of political expediency. Ashbrook stayed in the game for the long haul and helped to turn the conservative movement into a mainstream movement without compromising conservative principles.

In 1981 the Congressman decided to take his conservative leadership to the United States Senate. He began to campaign against then popular incumbent Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum. For Ashbrook the race was to be an historic battle pitting conservatism against liberalism. Unfortunately the hoped for clash of ideas never came to be. Congressman Ashbrook died in April of 1982.

With his passing, we lost a man less concerned with himself and motivated more by doing what was right than what was popular. We lost the type of leader that Republicans need today. Leaders who campaign on the issues that differentiate us from the liberal agendas of Democrats.

Yet despite the loss of Congressman Ashbrook’s physical presence, we are still blessed by his spirit of unwavering commitment and the lessons he taught us.

Bumper Sticker From Ashbrook's 1972 Presidential Campaign

He taught us that no one and no political party should establish or compromise their beliefs based on popular misconceptions of the time

Ashbrook’s leadership proved that when one is right, others will eventually come to that realization. But if one fears to give the right answer because everyone else is offering the wrong answer, than no one will ever know what the right answer is.

Unfortunately, Republicans have been unwillingly to be honest about the answers we need to hear. Instead they run campaigns that duplicate the answers being offered by liberals and it obviously isn’t working.

Republicans are losing and rightfully so. Many candidates are not embracing the conservative principles that have led to our past successes. They have been more concerned with personal success at the voting booth than they have been with making life better for the voters.

During this holiday where the spirit of giving and goodwill dominates the season’s atmosphere, I can only hope that Republicans in New Jersey can find a candidate who is willing to carry that sense of sincere goodwill and giving into the political atmosphere. I hope we can nominate a person who is willing to provide us with solutions to our problems rather than rhetoric that they think will deliver them a shallow victory at the polls.

John Asbrook campaigned for President on the slogan “no left turns”. At the time he ran Americans were comfortable with the status quo. A few short years later, Americans were running away from the status quo that they once wanted. Instead they turned to the conservative principles that brought us out of the problems that the left and left leaning decisions created.

With the perceived popularity of President-elect Barack Obama some in New Jersey may feel that campaigning to the left is the politically expedient way to win an election but is it political expediency good public policy?

In the words of Congressman Ashbrook “the difference between the conservative and the liberal is that the conservative worries about the future while the liberal worries about the next election.”

That being said, I want a Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey who worries about tomorrow, not the next election. I want a nominee who is more concerned with doing what is right for the people not what the left wants to hear.

If Republicans want to achieve a victory in November that means something, they need to make sure that they take “no left turns.”.

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Coast Guard Christmas
 
Twas the night before Christmas and all through each state,
Coast Guard families were starting to celebrate.
Just then from the white House came an urgent call,
A crisis had arisen that would affect one and all.
In fact the U.S. State Department was frantic,
For Santa Claus had just landed in the Atlantic!
It Was foggy as ever; Rudolph had made a blunder.
Santa, sleigh, and eight reindeer were going under.
Though the stockings were hung by the chimneys with care.
Poor Santa gurgled, "I'll never get there."
When what to his wondering eye should appear;
But some coast guard cutters with their rescue gear!
The officers and crew were so lively and quick;
Sure was a lucky break for good ole Saint Nick.
With a nod from the captain. they went right to work.
Rudolph was embarrassed, he felt like a jerk.
Poor Santa was soggy, but as anyone could see,
He was very grateful to the U.S.C.G!
And we heard him exclaim as they towed him from sight,
"If it weren't for age and weight, I'd enlist Tonight!"
 
Photobucket

 

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