Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us

Guest Columnist: Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr.

Walt Kelly first used the quote "We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us" on a poster for Earth Day in 1970. Over the years many people have co-opted this quote to basically describe a situation in which a person or group continues to fail because of its own ineptitude. How sad it is that today I offer these comments about the Republican Party
I want to describe what worries me the most about what is happening. I believe all of us are familiar with the typical reaction to a dangerous situation: fight or flight. There are two other reactions that I want to propose; these apply to survival situations. The difference is that fight or flight is a short-term reaction; and adaptation and internalization are long-term reactions.
I will not dwell on the fight or flight situation in a nonpolitical situation. I think everyone knows if they're confronted by a dangerous situation, over the short term, that might be the only alternative. Let's consider adaptation, however, in the event that fight or flight does not work. The example I will use is the Stockholm syndrome: you are captured and made a prisoner. You have tried to fight and were overpowered; you tried to run away, but were captured. At this point what you do? One option is to adapt: you bide your time awaiting a moment when fight or flight becomes an option again. Finally, if enough time passes and you are brainwashed as well, you actually may internalize the message that was the dangerous situation that began your journey: instead, you become an energetic worker for the cause of your captors and now identify with them to the point of possibly assisting them.
Now, let's carry this into a political environment. It seems as if almost every confrontational issue that faces the Republicans, they choose flight over fight: compromise is better than principle. With the mainstream media constantly portraying conservatives and the Republican Party in a bad light, this is not necessarily a bad strategy; in fact, it might be the only strategy. The electorate seems to feel that whenever one of these controversial issues arises, any negative outcome is the fault of Republicans. It seems that any negotiation that might be proposed is wrong: it's the Democratic Party’s way or no way. A part of this may be because of the negative perception that most of the electorate seem to have about the Tea Party. They were very effective in 2010, but current thinking seems (based on that same mainstream media) to be that the Tea Party is holding the rest of the Republican Party hostage – and they are perceived as being too radical – and so flight ensues.
So now, adaptation may occur over the long run where, rather than fighting or negotiating a more favorable outcome, the Republican Party instead chooses to align themselves with the goals of the Democratic Party. That way everything runs smoothly, and the mainstream media can longer hold the Republican Party hostage over their “obstructionism”. The problem, of course, is the situation becomes “democratic lite,” the popular term for the Republican Party abandoning its principles. This is already happening because the Republican Party has a number of RINOs who currently side with their Democratic colleagues; they should consider changing parties.
The last long-term outcome, internalization, occurs when the Republican Party completely gives up its principles and becomes a party in name only. This may seem far-fetched at the moment; however, if adaptation becomes a way of life and continues long enough, the party will gradually morph into this way of life. Even more frightening is the possibility that even if the party retains its character, the electorate may not. This could happen as more and more people become completely dependent on the government; any candidate or party that threatens to change the process to eliminate welfare, food stamps, or any/all of the transfer programs that support the people with freebies will not be supported – once again, flight.
So let's return to 2013 and the Growth and Opportunity Project which produced a written document the media laughingly calls the Autopsy Report. It can be found at: http://growthopp.gop.com/RNC_Growth_Opportunity_Book_2013.pdf  It may be just me, but I have not seen this report or its recommendations manifesting itself in any of the media outlets. What happened? There were a number of recommendations made in a number of different areas. Messaging? I don't think so. Demographic partners? They still look the same to me. Campaign mechanics? This was a great section! If things are changing, then they aren't being communicated very well. Friends and allies? Mmmm…. Almost a quarter of the report was devoted to recommendations – good recommendations. And yet nearly 2 years later the party is having the same conversation.
Americans are not happy with the current leaders of the Republican Party – which makes it nearly impossible to win big elections. I’m beginning to think that the enemy of the conservative movement is not the Democrats; it is the Republican leadership. The Constitution is being ignored; executive orders seem to be the main way around the legislative process and Congress. There does not seem to be any sustained resistance to the liberal’s agenda. The GOP must unite behind conservatism and leaders that will advance that agenda – rather than run from it. Republicans have to give the voters a reason to vote for them; the constant negative messaging of why the voters should not vote Democratic has worn thin. The Party needs to advance a leader who will step up and demonstrate leadership and differentiate the Republican Party from the Democratic Party. The Republicans need to quit shredding themselves. Could there be a better time?
“Generally, though, attitudes toward the incumbent president have played a bigger role than views about Congress in shaping the results of mid-term elections. And attitudes toward Obama, and the nation's direction, remain distinctly chilly.
“Just 27 percent of those polled said they believed the country is moving in the right direction; 62 percent say they consider it off on the wrong track.” (http://www.nationaljournal.com/next-economy/poll-shows-problems-for-obama-peril-for-senate-democrats-20140428)

Before you know it, the midterms will be over. Regardless of the outcome, the presidential race is just a couple of years away. There just doesn't seem to be any interest in really building a viable Republican Party that will advance a candidate to turn this nation around. You would think that with the Congressional job approval/disapproval rate being 12.8 approve and 76.8 disapprove that someone would come forward and say they can do better? http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/congressional_job_approval-903.html

Consider the following: “A 2011 USA Today review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Democrats declined in 25 of 28 states (some states do not register voters by party). Democrats were still the largest political party with more than 42 million voters (compared with 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents) But in 2011 Democrats numbers shrank 800,000, and from 2008 they were down by 1.7 million, or 3.9%.” Using this same newspaper article: “USA Today's review of state voter rolls indicates that registered Republicans declined in 21 of 28 states (not all states register voters by party) and that Republican registrations were down 350,000 in 2011. The number of independents rose in 18 states, increasing by 325,000 in 2011, and was up more than 400,000 from 2008, or 1.7%.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_parties_in_the_United_States The Party had better start worrying about the moderate Independent voters if they ever expect to win another national election.
Does this sound like a fight or flight response by the independent voters of the electorate? Even worse, the number of registered independents is about as large as the number of registered Republicans! Once these numbers begin to stabilize and the electorate settles down (i.e., adapts), internalization of the wrong direction and principles will begin: it will become a way of life. The Republican Party has a chance to change this: will they?

1 comment:

Mark Sonder, MM, CSEP said...

In an otherwise wordy and often violent content, Mr. Mutersbaugh continues to ask the right questions of the Republican Party. But is anyone listening or do they only wish to create more bloviating sound bytes? Adopt and adapt is the way of survival and of the future. Walt Kelly knew that. A devout Democrat, Walt for years attended all the Democratic Conventions.

"I’m beginning to think that the enemy of the conservative movement is not the Democrats; it is the Republican leadership," writes Mutersbaugh. Maybe the real enemy is fighting. Maybe we should do less of it, which doesn't mean flight. It means working things out for the betterment of the US, it people, and its flora and fauna.