With as much fanfare as could be generated in an era where Republican news is reported on page 25 behind the Obama hagiographies occupying the first 24, a cadre of Republican leaders had a kickoff meeting last Saturday for a new group labeled the National Council for a New America (NCNA).
The mission statement of this organization, formed to get back in the good graces of the American voter, is “. . . to listen to, partner with, and empower the American people . . .” and to “. . . listen, learn and lead through an honest, open conversation with the American people.” “American people” was a common term in their initial press release and manifesto, like they might have been plagiarizing the Preamble of the Constitution.
Sounds good, but for one problem. At NCNA’s kickoff town hall meeting at a secret location on (May 2) in Arlington, Virginia, the much sought-after American people weren’t invited. Rather than a sample of those American people, it was a Beltway insider’s group of Republican “leaders” and their amanuenses, along with the Washington press, and the restaurant employees. The last, I think, were paid to be there.
If you were of the hoi polloi, and tried to call the office of party organizer Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va) to discover the time and place of the “town hall”, your call was not returned. One newspaper headlined it “GOP listens . . .” but it certainly not to the uninvited people they will need to convince. They weren’t there.
From the press descriptions of the event, it was a cozy little pizza party wherein the same hackneyed explanations of the Republicans’ plight were tossed about – not getting out the message, not pandering to interest groups, not addressing regional needs, not attracting moderates. There was lots of guffawing and back-slapping and a general conviction that those simple folk in the hinterlands just need to be educated, or pandered to, and all will be right.
What may come as a surprise to these Republican elites is that the American people have been speaking for quite a while. It is they, the elites, who have not been listening. The people spoke out in a loud voice that they did not want a stimulus plan that would dump nearly $800 billion of their tax money into the coffers of a failed banking system, only to see a Republican President and Treasury Secretary jam it down their throats. They overwhelmingly voiced opposition to an amnesty program for up to 20 million illegal aliens, only to see their Republican President and their 2008 presidential candidate John McCain lead the campaign to reward lawbreakers and border invaders. They spoke out loudly on the need for energy independence, only to see that same presidential candidate and the Republican governor of Florida Jeb Bush say no to drilling off the coast and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. When thousands of citizens spontaneously spoke out at nationwide Tea Parties, their allies in the Republican leadership were embarrassingly few. They voiced their fears of lost jobs to outsourcing and unwarranted immigration, both legal and illegal, only to be lectured about “globalization” and “free trade”. They wanted a courts system to reflect their long held values, only to see a gang of elected Republicans thwart judicial appointments with collusive liberal allies.
Now the formerly tone-deaf McCains and Bushes and a few other self-appointed guardians of the “conservative” message say they want to listen to the people they disdainfully ignored in the last few years of Republican decline. Does anyone believe in this mass conversion?
Organizer Cantor said at the session that “the Republican Party is founded on some common-sense conservative principles that are as effective today as they have always been.” Maybe Cantor could explain why Jeb Bush would then say that the party must “create a consensus around 21st Century ideas that truly matter for the American people.” Maybe Bush can explain what was wrong with those 20th (and 19th and 18th) Century ideas like constrained government, fiscal responsibility, freedom, quality education, respect for the law, and security in their homes and jobs. Those 19th and 18th Century ideas included such now apparently outmoded concepts like “We, the People” and “. . . government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
“Core conservative principles” are those that have given the Republican Party landslide Reagan victories, and forged the Contract with America that ended forty years of Democrat rule. Deviation from these principles, pandering to special interests groups in finance, ethnicities, and elsewhere, and the character corrupting influences of power are what dethroned them.
The American people have spoken loud and clear. They don’t want to be lectured now by some of the same people who ignored them these last several years. They don’t want a Republican Party whose leaders are content to be the Junior Varsity of the Democrats, spending, pandering, corrupting only a little bit less. Like the wilderness years of the post-Watergate era, they are waiting for a leader to emerge who articulates their values. With the exceptions of a few unknowns with potential, like a Jindal or Palin, the NCNA boys and girls are not ready for prime time, or are well past it. The policy trees of the American people fell in the forest, and they chose not to hear it.