It is really remarkable to watch the Republican Party implode. This was the Party that had it all. The Presidency, Congress.
Today, their leading spokespeople are Bobby Jindall and Michael Steele. They watch President Obama's oratory and popularity, and they have tried to emulate him - with people of color, youth. This is like watching the NFL teams try to emulate the Super Bowl winner - they won the championship with the 3-4 defense, so we'll play the 3-4! We'll hire the assistant from the championship team! Usually, by the time you emulate the winner, the league is on to some new trend. Or, you have actually missed what made that team win. And in the case of the Republican Party, they're missing out on an important point about Obama's popularity.
Aside from the fact that he's "new" and talks about "hope" and "change," President Obama's popularity is soaring because he is perceived as sober, responsible, and concerned about the vast majority of Americans. We just had a disastrous, divisive president who often seemed overwhelmed by the job. He was incredibly irresponsible. He probably never wanted to be president in the first place.
This president is a response to that president. Forget the fact that he's African-American, or relatively young. He is pro-active - and that is the most important characteristic about him that Republicans can emulate.
Let me give a comparison for the Republicans reading this (and if there are, what are you doing on the Huffington Post?): in 1993, David Dinkins was finishing a disastrous first term as Mayor of New York City. Crime was on the rise, Dinkins seemed out of touch, and often idle, as the City appeared headed toward dark days. Along came Rudy Giuliani. Rudy was, essentially, a war-time Mayor. He came into office and he acted - there was no question as to who was in charge. You may not have liked everything he did, but you could never say that he was not trying. Just the fact that he was so on top of things - showing up at every crime scene, finding new ways to fight crime - helped the city's confidence. The city, which had seemingly intractable problems and many felt was in a state of permanent decay, was instead on the move again.
Obama is Rudy Giuliani (the Rudy of his first-term, not the Rudy of his second-term, who still thought he was a war-time mayor even though the city was at peace). The country seems to have intractable problems. But we have a pro-active President, one who shows up everywhere, is on TV nearly every day, and with the sheer force of his personality, he makes a difference. All of his ideas will not work - but he's going to try. Some say America is in decline - President Obama says we will be on the move again.
Now, here's where today's Republicans come in: the point isn't that their new spokespeople are charismatic like Obama; young like Obama; of color like Obama. The point should be that they are sober leaders who can speak with authority on the situation that we are in today, and speak with authority on the changes that should be made so we can get out of this mess. That's what the American people want right now.
Michael Steele is not an authority on the issues facing the country, and he has proven to be a disaster on TV. Bobby Jindall had a shot, but his ideas were the same old same old, and he was awful on TV, so he's out, too. Who's left?
Rudy Giuliani flew off the deep end years ago, and now he's a punch-line. He's out. Obviously, the moderates don't take Sarah Palin seriously. Out. I know Rush Limbaugh is intimidating to the Republicans in Congress, but seriously, folks. He's out. Eric Cantor, the Congressman, may be a power on the Hill, but he's putting the Republicans in a deep hole. Paul Ryan is a young Congressman with credibility - maybe he can be the person Republicans need, but he may be too new to be an authority.
There are two that I can think of for the Republicans right now: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The rise of Newt has been well chronicled lately. Newt has more ideas in his head than any other leader out there. But Newt still remains a divisive figure.
And Mitt - well, here's the thing. Mitt ran a horrible campaign for president. He ran against his own previously stated positions. He ran a campaign that was appropriate for 1988, not 2008. He missed the yacht on what the country was looking for, and he was passed in the race by John McCain.
But Mitt can speak with authority on the economic crisis facing the country. Now, as a Democrat, I don't agree with much of what Mitt would say. But if I'm a Republican, or one who recently left the Party, I may listen to Mitt, given his previous positions of power in the business world. Certainly, he speaks with more authority than the radical righties on Capitol Hill, who speak of nothing but tax cuts.
If Mitt is willing to reject Republican Party orthodoxy, and I don't believe Mitt is as "conservative" as he pretended to be in 2008, he may have some ideas that voters would find palatable. This is his opportunity, to be Mitt, the guy who brought health care to Massachussets, the guy who turned around the Olympics, the guy whose father led Michigan and who knows the auto industry.
And so, Republicans, do not look for Obama-lite as your spokesperson. Look to Mitt Romney. He could not answer the call in 2008, but maybe he can do so now. He is your best bet.
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