Family Counseling for Republicans

Three Jewish mothers were comparing their sons’ fealty. “My son sent me on a cruise to the Bahamas,” crowed the first. “A pittance,” mocked the second. “Mine bought me a new Cadillac.” The third proudly sought the last word: “My son goes to a psychiatrist and pays $500 an hour. And who does he talk about the entire session? Me!”

Our relationship with the GOP seems to have passed through all these stages. First we sent them to Washington, then we wrote big checks to their reelection campaigns. Now our love for them is mainly expressed by talking about how they are driving us crazy. Too much spend, not enough thrift. The budget grows and they cannot budge it. They have high earmarks, but they get low marks for listening. Their commitment to a strong border is borderline.

We will not abandon them this time around, and they will survive the midterm elections relatively intact. A war is fuming (well, not quite raging, but not quite calm either) in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Democrats are turning into unconscientious objectors. Letting those guys run a war is like letting Michael Jackson run an amusement park for kids. Democrats will get cut down running for office on a platform of cut and run. Americans walk the walk; we don’t run the run.

The problem with voting for the guys who are disappointing because the alternative is too frightening is that the loyalty dissipates. The love is lost. It is like staying in a marriage for the sake of the kids. The “Compassionate Conservative” idea is pushing out the passionate conservative. When the party stops being a party, when the fun is gone, that is the beginning of the end. Time for a little counseling .

Enough moping, let’s start hoping. Enough mopery, let’s start working. This marriage can still be saved. Here’s the plan.

Elected representatives need to learn that voters never ask for money. Well, virtually never. They do vote for the broader entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. But they really could care less for the vast majority of idiotic junk that lobbyists coax out of these custodians of our tax money. It really is possible to change this part of the Washington culture, but it requires a broad-based agreement among the majority party as a whole. Creating surpluses again, as the Republican-Clinton coalition managed in the late ’90s, is a sure winner. A surplus is a plus, sir.

They also must embrace (and many House members are already on this track) the very strong distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Not in omnibus bills where details go lost but in small increments, rhetorical and legislative. For every tough proposal to tighten borders and enforce laws, offer a creative proposal to assist legal immigrants. Many creative things can be done to help the by-the-book on-the-books legal immigrant at the same time the illegal is being booked.

One example that I proposed in a prior column is setting up a special panel of famous and respected citizens to review special cases where misunderstandings and technicalities are creating injustices. The INS will inevitably have situations where people end up undeservedly on the outs. Families, marriages and valuable employment situations are held hostage to quirks in the letter of the law. There is no reason being a political conservative should mean being a stickler for text in every one of these convoluted subsections of code. When it comes to liberty, statute need not undo the statue.

The final point for Republicans to remember for the long term is not to be insecure about security. Most folks realize our safety needs guarding. Democrats are always willing to risk our skins to avoid accusations of profiling by skin. They will not stand up to tyrants because being seen as nice guys is paramount to them. Republicans should be realistic and firm; the voters will recognize that and react in admiring, appreciative ways.

Will all of this be enough?  Politicians fear that voters are never fully satisfied, that they tend to negative judgments. That if you give them an arm, they want a leg. We, the voters, must take that to heart. This is our responsibility within the counseling session. We must commit to being satisfied with the basics. If we get our arm, we must give them a hand.

That will be a pleasant surprise, voters who are actually satisfied. Like the other Jewish joke about the cop who pulls a man over and says, “Sir, your wife fell out of the car a mile ago.”  “Phew,” the husband replies in relief. “I thought I had gone deaf.”