A few years ago, it was the Democrats. Now, the Republicans are learning a painful lesson that listening to Yoda during “Star Wars” could have helped them avoid.
This class also contains some of the most dense – or perhaps, most arrogant – citizens alive today.
Just a few short years ago, Democrats failed to heed the lessons from a little green character in a science fiction blockbuster: that the objects of your greatest fear and your greatest desire, if uncontrolled, can lead to one’s greatest failures in life. Before the Tea Party “Revolution” of 2010, Democrats allowed their greatest desire – pushing through universal health care while they had the numbers on their side – to dictate the focus and narrative of the first two years of a historic presidency. Their biggest fear – an inability to push through Obamacare legislation while they had the supermajority in place – drove the agenda to the point of pushing through an extremely unpopular (and potentially flawed) version of the reform bill. In the end, it did not play well at the polls in November 2010, leading to major losses at ballot boxes across America just months after one of their greatest wins on Capitol Hill.
Now, on the heels of Republicans’ victories in November 2010 and subsequent wins in the rhetorical focus on national debt since taking over the House, Republicans and other conservatives are on the cusp of repeating the same type of mistake that Democrats made.
Like Democrats in 2010, Republicans are increasingly willing to abandon the issues that have driven the passion in their base for the past 4 years. In the case of the Democrats, they lost grip on the narrative of a need for more efficient, more responsive, and more accountable government that drove Republicans such as Rick Santorum from Capitol Hill in 2006. By 2010, their focus changed to diverting the nation’s attention away from frozen credit lines, high unemployment rates, and economic crisis and onto the Democrats’ pet project: health care reform.
That collective misstep still has the president making mistakes over conditions in the reform package while Democrats have been struggling to keep control in both chambers of Congress since 2010. In the aftermath, the nation has continued to struggle with the same issues of inefficiencies in government, stagnant economic growth, and lack of government accountability and transparency.
Despite this clear lesson of failure before them, Republicans seem intent on going down the same path moving into November. This comes at the worst possible time for conservatives gathering strength for the past 4 years.
Conservatives have, instead, found themselves caught up in the whirlwind of debating Rush Limbaugh’s choice of words, Rick Santorum’s views on choice, and questionable video clips from Mr. Obama’s Harvard days. Through this increased lack of focus, the conservative base has now begun allowing its greatest desire and greatest fear – beating President Obama and having him win a second term, respectively – to dictate their response to the focus-fuzzying rhetoric being thrown their way. Progressives, desperate to invigorate their base and distract America from uninspiring employment numbers, are now catching Republicans in the same momentum-busting trap that the political left laid for itself just a few years ago.
Instead of focusing on the failures of the president’s stimulus package or the constitutional challenges of his prized health care reform, Republicans and many conservatives are emotionally charged with retorts to progressives’ attacks on their positions and what they perceive as a mainstream bias against conservatives. This emotional drive to beat President Obama in November and gain some sense of fairness in the political and media realms is the antithesis of what Republicans should be feeling and doing in order to win in 2012.
The political lesson that all politicians must heed in 2012 and beyond is a simple one: the principal political desire must be serving the American people. Ironically, more often than not, the political goals of each side get lost in the wash at some point. Power without altruistic intentions always finds its way to slip through the hands of the mal-intended like fine china shattering on a ballroom floor.
Americans generally lose when politically-based goals find their way creeping up the priority lists of national leaders, moving past the needs of people that hired them in the first place. To that end, the more immediate lesson learned by conservatives must be to avoid wanting something so badly (e.g., defeating President Obama in November) that the balance, discipline, drive, and messaging needed to accomplish the task at hand gets lost. Pursuing Republicans’ goals for 2012 may have some good for the nation involved in the process, but if the desire to obtain these goals muddle the message and focus of the past several years, the GOP may quickly find itself repeating the consequences of failure experienced by the Democrats two years ago – and those of a young Jedi in a galaxy far, far away.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 that can be found every Saturday with Democratic pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 Pacific.) He is regularly featured on CNN’s “Early Start” weekdays between 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM Eastern as well. Catch the radio show “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” live on LMGILIVE.com at 11 AM Eastern weekdays and re-broadcast on Politic 365.