BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
“Every solution to every problem is simple. It’s the distance between the two where the mystery lies.”—Derek Landy
Much ink has been used to describe the Republican primary in Mississippi between state Senator Chris McDaniel and current long-time U.S. Senator Thad Cochran. It easily embodies all the characteristics of what has been described as a battle between conservatives and establishment politicians for “the soul of the Republican Party”. After all that has happened, that term no longer seems like lofty rhetoric.
There are two polar positions, one that the party establishment must be protected at all costs, the other that it is past time for them to go. These two opposites coalesce around two basic arguments; the establishment position talks of responsible government, while the opposition talks of remaining true to principle.
Meanwhile, many long time Republicans who would like to see a return to the conservative vision of the party, but who long for party unity are caught in the middle. The simple truth is that the TEA Party contingent that so many have loved to hate is no longer a small faction. They have systematically taken their message of smaller government and fiscal responsibility to the grassroots voters of Mississippi and have been successful at doing so. The Republican Party has done little to counter or adopt that growth, hoping that the movement would stall. The state Republican Party has lost the active support of many of its own county committees as a result.
This is a mess. But, it’s a mess that belongs at the feet of the Republican political establishment.
The Republican Party has to take responsibility for it’s go-along get-along mentality over the past several years, and realize that they had at their fingertips an incredible opportunity but lacked the foresight to grab hold of it. For all the talk of community and grassroots conservatism that party officials and politicians like to discuss, they worried too much over the loss of their own power when that grassroots movement began rising up. They decided instead to fight for power over principle, ignoring much of the longtime Republican Party platform in the process. The battle we now see unfolding in front of us is the result.
This is about more than one election, or one man. This will not just go away, and the division only worsens with each insult.
Who Has The Character To Communicate The Vision?
The question now is who else will step forward and grasp the policy positions that resonate with the people, to take this upheaval within our ranks and make sense of it all, to communicate a vision for the future of the state, country, the Republican Party and for conservatism. A generation has passed since we seemed willing to educate through engagement of principle in actual policy positions. Republicans no longer know why they are Republicans (You can count the recent departure of MFCR Chairman Evan Alvarez to the Democrat Party as a casualty). This has occurred because there has been a lack of leadership. Who will those new leaders be?
Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is, but the tree is the real thing.”
Two thousand-plus years earlier Aesop said, “Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”
People are sick of personality politics. They are sick of propped up reputations. They are starving for something real.
The people of this country are conservative. They still support the virtues of a free society held together by a moral application of natural law. But, these are also the majority of people who no longer participate in their communities or the political process. Such is the inheritance of liberalism, personality politics and the push for government as nanny.
Through questionable and self-serving policy, our politicians have displaced the people who are the fiber of our state and nation. What is left in the public sphere is a circus of yes-men; the egotistical, power hungry and vain to serve those that like the idea of being considered leaders without doing the heavy lifting needed to actually show the qualities of leadership.
The more the grassroots community is disgusted by this display, the less inclined they are to be involved. The less they are involved the more liberalism and power politics grow. We are becoming a nation of dependents unwilling to participate in our own renewal. We have been fooled into “grasping at the shadow”. The numbers show it clearly.
Survey Says . . .
The Roper Survey is a survey that was conducted every month from 1973 to 1994. Each month for the 21 year period, Roper presented thousands of Americans with a simple checklist of civic activities to measure engagement in communities. Looking at a chart of the survey results shows a steady decline in community and civic engagement.
The one bright spot comes for a brief moment in 1980, when Reagan’s election built on the promise of limited government revived the idea of community. However, it was only a brief leveling of what had been a steady decline. After Reagan’s presidency concluded in the late 80’s the decline began again and continued through the end of the survey in 1994.
Comparing the Roper survey alongside U.S. Census Bureau data of political organizations with regular paid staff shows that during the declining years of public participation in community there is a direct correlation to times when political lobbying and government spending increased. The more people were convinced that someone else was going to manage the responsibilities of government, the less likely they were to be actively involved.
It’s important to note that this decline isn’t just about people participating in government. The Roper survey also took into account religious participation and local club participation such as the Kiwanis, Lions Club and Rotary. This twenty year study shows us the results of an overzealous central government and the political pressures, and how those two factors systematically reduces peoples participation in every aspect of their own individual responsibility and civic renewal.
Comparing data to other surveys of organizational and community participation only serves to confirm it.
People Must Believe
Which brings us back to today. At a time when we easily have the most burdensome government regulations and taxes in the history of the country, we also have a large reduction of people participating in the workforce, a more secular society of people not fully invested in the local communities in which they live, and a growth in dependence on federal programs like never before.
There is a cause and effect here. The survival of our republic depends on people willing to point that out in a way, not only that presents the reality of the situation, but also provides the hope that comes with presenting policy that charts a course from the problem to the solution, however far that distance may be.
Any movement which requires people to move in a particular direction someone else has chosen for them without engaging the rational mind in the effort will only teach how to follow.
We need more than blind followers.
A movement that forms a belief system that brings the people back into the process, and rejects the political class in favor of putting people first would go a long way to pull us back from the tipping point. But without belief, without passion, without the people, it’s all just a bunch of hot air, soundbites and useless rhetoric fed by money of the political class, by the political class, for the political class.
People are realizing they’ve been misled and their trust has been misused and misplaced. A critical mass is building in Mississippi and they are ready to fight for themselves, their neighbors and their children’s future. That energy will not be bottled up again.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett is Policy Director for McDaniel for U.S. Senate. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett