And the Democrats have nothing to do with it
By Chris Ingram
I just got back from the Tiger Bay Club meeting in Tampa, Florida. The club invites politicians to come and speak, and then gives an award to the club member who asks the toughest question of the day's guest politicos. The lineup today included three members of the Florida legislature. I won't bore you with who they were as two of them don't deserve the attention and the other probably doesn't want it.
But one of them was a four-term member of the Florida House, who facing term limits, now feels compelled to run for the state senate. He's a Republican. I'll call him "Rep. Rambler." During his opening remarks Rep. Rambler commented about how serving in the legislature is all about building relationships, finding consensus, and working with people. He should have just 'fessed up and admitted if you want a plum committee assignment you better do what the party bosses tell you.
Rambler went on to say how proud he was that this year the state legislature cut over a billion dollars worth of services that "you won't even feel" because it was wasteful, and duplicative services that were cut. Kudus to you Rep. Rambler. What I want to know is, why does it take a budget shortfall for you and your fellow cronies to look at the budget and start cutting wasteful and duplicative services?
And if you don't think Rep. Rambler is "in" with the party bosses, consider this. He spent ten arduous minutes defending the indicted former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Ray Samson. He even admitted they used to be roommates as though that somehow makes him a good guy. Talk about out of touch...
Anyhow, this clown of a Republican legislator (Rambler that is) and the rest of the Republicans in the Florida legislature as a whole are not unique. Most every legislative body in America suffers from the same problem, and the U.S. Congress is the leader of the pack of wasteful spending Republicans who tell you with a straight face they're fiscal conservatives. At least the big-government/wasteful spending Democrats are honest about wanting to tax and spend you to death.
As a Republican, I was incensed by Rambler's attitude that the cuts they made showed the Republicans in Tallahassee were doing a good job. OK. I'll give him kudos this year. But what have you been doing the last eight years you've been in office fat boy?
The problem in Florida is indicative of the Republican Party's problems around the country. That is: we're no different than the Democrats - we just look better in a suit.
But what the Democrats lack in looking the part, they have recently made up for with a message. Now I'm not saying it is the right message, or that it is compelling to me, but it certainly appeals to some among us.
Republicans now devoid of a message go looking for a messenger. They tried Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and he fell flat on his face. The "farm team" started and stopped with Jindal, so we're back to the same bunch of good old boys like Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner. Neither one of them are exactly touchy feely (you know, they're not exactly the types you'd want to have a beer with or God forbid watch your kids for you on date night with your wife), and outside of their own little cliques of Kool-aid drinking supporters, they have zero appeal among the electorate.
So now we have a party with no message (other than anti-all-things Obama), and no messenger. What is a Grand very Old Party to do? Well build the base of course! So the G.O.P. will spend countless contributor dollars in a hopeless effort to bring in new voters. They'll do this by investing in new technology, minority outreach (where they'll send any black guy calling himself a Republican into unfamiliar black communities and expect him to miraculously bring in new black voters to the G.O.P. - you see the party bosses think all black people are the same), as well as "get out the vote" training, and various and sundry other voter contact efforts.
Trouble is, all this money will be wasted because the party doesn't have a persuasive reason for people to support Republicans.
In looking at why the G.O.P. will continue to fail, all you need to do is understand why the Democrats were so successful last year (and will continue to be successful for years to come). They didn't win elections because Barack Obama was on Facebook or Twitter. Obama merely took advantage of their interest in him and used new technology to exploit that interest.
Republicans will continue to fail until they realize to win elections you need to recruit interesting candidates. Right now we operate on a philosophy of "give the nomination to whomever's turn it is/whoever followed the party bosses orders the best" and try to go recruit voters around them. Whereas the Democrats (at least in Obama) found a better candidate, and the voter recruits simply followed. It's a lot easier doing it the Democrats' way.
The G.O.P. seems to think if we get on My Space and Twitter people will flock to us. They couldn't be any more dead wrong. People flocked to Obama because he had a message of hope and change. I don't agree with his message, but it was effective and it gave people a sense of optimism.
Until the G.O.P. learns that the message comes before the messenger, and that the messenger shouldn't be some career politician whose "turn it is" to be the next candidate for (fill in the blank), the party will continue to lose elections. Here in Florida, that is exactly what the party is doing in the case of the U.S. Senate campaign (anointing Charlie Crist because he's the boss), and the gubernatorial race (its Bill McCollum's turn).
Speaking of the Florida governor, Charlie Crist recently wrote an opinion piece in the Tampa Tribune (which is the finest paper in America for wrapping fish or lining cat pans by the way). In it, he spoke of his desire to "Create a bipartisan task force to restructure government for a new generation of challenges. Eliminate duplicative functions across government. Modernize entitlements. Get health markets right."
Governor Crist, you've hit the nail on the head! What with all those specifics you want to accomplish and the record of providing substantive change you've shown as governor, why, you should run for president!
Of course I am joking folks. Charlie Crist is so completely lacking of leadership skills he couldn't lead a starving Tom cat to a tuna cannery. Charlie's got one thing though, he's a great messenger. Trouble for him and the rest of the G.O.P. establishment is: no message.
Chris Ingram is CEO and partner of Strategic Solutions of Florida a political consulting company. He is also the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@411Communications.net.