By Bill Spadea
If you’re like many Americans, it’s too early to be thinking about the presidential contest next year. Even if you are aware of some of the candidates running, chances are you’re not glued to the set watching the early debates. Last night’s MSNBC sponsored GOP debate was interesting though. I managed to catch a few minutes of it and although I thought Romney was particularly sharp and Rick Perry made a very good case as a solid conservative, it was clear why the current field leaves something to be desired among many in the Republican Party. A former George W. Bush speechwriter said this past weekend that “I don’t think Republicans regard this as a strong field. So there is still talk of people getting in the race.”
Let’s forget all the conventional reasons why there is a lack of excitement from the current cadre of presidential hopefuls. Romney has a problem effectively discussing the failings of Obama-care given his own health care bill in Massachusetts, add to that his 59 point economic plan…59 points? I’m worried there might be a test at the end! Governor Perry, although articulating many strong conservative principles, has the challenge of the latest critique of his Texas job creation efforts through government subsidies and ‘poaching’ from other states; there’s Bachman’s lack of executive experience and Ron Paul’s difficulty overcoming the fringe label among many voters. Gingrich, Huntsman, Santorum and Cain round out the field but lack funding and have thus far failed to light a spark among earlier likely primary voters.
Despite the short-comings of the top-tier, they may all be able to put up an effective fight simply based on the current economy and the President’s own poor performance. Mishandling the economic crisis; the deepening of unemployment and under-employment; vast expanse of government beyond what it palatable for the average taxpayer; and out-of-control debt have all contributed to a general lack of enthusiasm for his re-election in recent polls. That said the GOP is very skilled at the art of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Only a candidate with the courage to polarize the electorate on the issues and present a stark contrast with the Democratic incumbent will win. We need someone to unapologetically pursue a new policy course focused on economic growth and individual liberty in order to win.
The first step is to challenge the conventional wisdom that our nominee needs to be a conciliator and a unifier instead of a polarizer by looking at the facts of history. There are plenty of successful Presidents who ran in the center and then governed from their partisan corner. Then there are a few who campaigned from a solid partisan position, specifically outlining an enemy, who won decisive victories.
President Reagan, President George W. Bush and President Clinton were highly partisan political leaders creating vehement opposition from the other side. Each had the polarizing effect of a wide gap between the support of members of their own party and the lack of support among voters in the other party as they entered the second year in office. See Poll Results
And each were winners of a second term because they appealed to the core of their own party and created enough momentum to show strong leadership on the issue of the day which won over the average voter who only pays attention at the end.
Obama, like his predecessors, has embraced the role of polarizer-in-chief as he knows that his success is dependent on his aggressive far-left agenda energizing the core of the Democratic base. As long as he offers some hope for a recovery and continues to redistribute your wealth he’s got a good shot at keeping the job.
That same zeal on the side of individual liberty and economic growth is the only way for a Republican challenger to have a chance of unseating this administration. Why is it that the Democrats are unafraid to be aggressive champions of their big government ideology while Republicans more often look for a middle ground thinking that they will appeal to everyone? Democrats like Obama and Clinton understood the value of the base and the importance of ‘dividing and conquering’ the electorate. Bush understood that as well when he stood for re-election in 2004 and certainly President Reagan understood the value when he used divisive terms like ‘welfare queens’ and ‘evil empire’.
Perhaps the best model to view for the upcoming election are the three Presidents who, in addition to causing divisiveness while in office, actually campaigned successfully by exploiting a major issue of the day and defining a clear position outlining the ‘enemy’.
Abraham Lincoln took a strong anti-slavery position and campaigned on stopping its expansion. His position was so strong the half the states threatened to secede if he won and then followed through. 1860 Campaign
Franklin Roosevelt ran a campaign pointing the finger at the ‘economic royalists’ and laid out a very effective populist campaign that defined the enemy as greedy businessmen and changed the country in a direction that set up the great expanse of government today. 1936 Speech
Ronald Reagan campaigned as a strong anti-communist defining the foreign enemy effectively and readying the nation to capitalize on their weak economic position. He also effectively defined the domestic enemy as government itself. 1980 Campaign
All of these men faced defining moments in American history, the Civil War, The Great Depression and the Cold War respectively. America is again confronted with a generational crisis that will have a resonating impact for decades to come.
The economic crisis today is beyond the dreadful employment numbers and slow growth. It encompasses the vast expanse of government that has put our nation perilously close to the tipping point of having more Americans taking from the government than paying to sustain it. If that happens and the Democrats feel secure knowing that entitlement benefit receivers outnumber working, taxpaying Americans, don’t expect a conciliatory or unifying tone from the other side.
Current polling shows that the economy and jobs is and will likely continue to be the number one issue heading into the next Presidential election. With nearly one in ten Americans out of work and another nearly one in ten working at a job that is insufficient to sustain a modest family’s standard of living, we’re in serious trouble.
The Democratic solution – which unfortunately has been aided and abetted by some weak, compromising Republicans in Washington – is to spend more of your tax dollars through new ‘stimulus’ spending – err sorry, just saw the White House talking points – it’s now ‘jobs’ spending. We’ve seen the failure of increased government spending under the current administration as well as the last Republican administration. Not only is this an economically ruinous course to take, but every dollar the government spends to ‘create jobs’ is not wealth created, it’s a dollar redistributed by coercion. Of course the American people are starting to ‘get it’ and the anger that is growing among taxpayers regarding the over-reach and failure of these policies is becoming palpable. Many Americans seem ready to fire the President but simply won’t replace him with someone who will be perceived to do more of the same.
It’s one reason that Governor Christie is talked about as a potential top contender. His brash style, aggressive decision making and willingness to take on tough fights has some Democrats in New Jersey speaking positively about his administration around the water cooler. There hasn’t been a more successful polarizing figure in recent New Jersey history than Governor Christie. He hasn’t taken on the role of chief conciliator with the teachers and public workers unions. He’s stepped up and taken on the role of chief agitator and walked away with several key victories for the taxpayers. Christie’s success is contrary to conventional wisdom about reconciling and being palatable to the other side. He’s a fighter pure and simple and is earning the respect of former foes because of his unapologetic style and aggressive pursuit of solving problems. He’s a straight talker who isn’t posturing for image and acceptance. Instead he’s going for the jugular of those forces that are bankrupting the state and destroying the economic future for the next generation.
If it’s working in a blue state like New Jersey, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin, it can certainly work in swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire where the registration numbers are much closer. Although a more moderate, conciliatory Republican may fare better in states like New Jersey, we’re likely to lose those states and do worse than expected in the swing states unless we energize the folks who are suffering the most with the current economy. The game plan in 2012 can’t be to earn the respect and admiration of the Democrats who will vote against us anyway. We need to be on the right side of history and champion the free market ideas that are the only way to create a robust and productive economy -and secure our future liberty.
This is not the time to play nice with the side who has levied on us the highest tax and debt burden in our history. This is not the time to play nice with the leaders on the other side whose agenda is not economic growth and freedom but the destruction of the very core of our capitalist system. Big government and debt are the goals of the other side. It’s time to take a stand and choose sides.
Of course Governor Christie has emphatically repeated that he is not going to be a candidate in 2012. Given his track record, I think it’s a safe bet to take him at his word. Without Governor Christie there is only one other Republican leader with the same style of tough talk and conservative record with the ability to deliver the message and energize the party as we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan, former governor Sarah Palin. Her Iowa speech recently was an outright attack on the ‘crony capitalists’ who are turning profits with the aid of the taxpayers. She’s correctly stated that these are not champions of capitalism creating growth in the economy – instead they are parasites earning a living off of government bailouts and subsidies. Palin rightly attacks those businesses which have benefited from tax loopholes and redistributed wealth from taxpayers. She’s got a long history of success with her aggressive style challenging conventional wisdom and fighting entrenched government. She’s taken on the tough fights in her own party and won. Her leadership and decision making helped create a strong economy in Alaska. She’s rooted out corruption and stood firm in the face of criticism and every kind of vitriol thrown her way. She’s got executive and life experience necessary to be an effective commander-in-chief. Family values, patriotism and an unapologetic approach to supporting our military and putting the interest of America first in the world.
The country needs leadership, and we’re overdue for a tough talking sheriff not afraid to act who will get to Washington and clean up the mess left by years of apologetic and weak Republicans and big government Democrats.
Palin is already a champion of the right policies that will restore a growth economy nationally creating sustainable employment and revenue. She’s got the courage, conviction and charisma necessary to polarize the electorate enough to win.
The good news is that Americans are slowly waking up from the Obama-induced slumber that allowed government to explode overnight and not especially pleased with what they see.
We cannot fear standing up and aggressively fighting those political elites that would ruin our economy and create the ‘shared scarcity’ that Congressman Paul Ryan warned of in a speech in Chicago a few months ago. We cannot fear stepping up to the plate with a contentious, strong willed, leader to articulate the position of the taxpayer who is on the hook for the debt and the future liability of a nation of dependents. Instead we should embrace the opportunity and select a nominee who will be unafraid to champion the free market…unafraid to put American interests first…unafraid to take the beating that will surely come from the political and media elite.
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