Looking at the impending split
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:00 PM
I've been contemplating the impending split in the local Republican Party.
Traditional Republican constituents have empowered local government for better or worse since Lincoln was in office, so what's the deal? On the national level, during the last 10 years, people thinking that "public officials don't care about what people like me think" has ranged from 50 percent to 75 percent - and that's up from 36 percent 40 years ago. It's logical to assume that the appeal of the Tea Party has populated that spike over outrage that "the government is run by a few big interests looking out only for themselves."
"Big interests" require political support to have their way. So, do we have any local Republican politicos paving the way for that sort of public manipulation? Our County Commissioners sport a semi-retired union electrician; a successful farm equipment dealer; and Crawfordsville's assistant fire chief. The Council has two farmers; three small business owners; a retired army general; and a Crawfordsville police officer. Self-interested? Well, if you consider the range of our financial and political interests, it's pretty tough to imply any hint of that same inbred selfishness exists that's currently tying Washington in an unproductive knot.
What I do see, and see routinely, are local leaders committed to improving their community. Are we so politically joined at the hip that we can't differ in opinion? Absolutely not. But, unlike those players on the bigger stage, local political leadership operates under microscopic scrutiny. As a group, untainted by financial self-interests or political career aspirations, we use good conscience and compromise for achieving the greater good.
As traditional Republican leaders, must we avoid the tyranny of forcing citizens to pay for what they do not want merely because we think it would be good for them? Absolutely. On the other hand, vision and community consensus always trumps short sited, politically motivated, or irrational objections that don't serve the majority's practical interests. Leadership is all about motive. My personal litmus test for local motive is: how does what I do influence my grandchildren's future?
Montgomery County GOP Chairman John Pickerill regularly writes integrating national Tea Party dogma into a local context, implying his opinions are actually those of all Republicans. Recent editorial rebuttals have clearly won the intellectual debate over these thinly veiled efforts to highjack a locally progressive agenda in favor of his regressive, everything-was-better-long-ago portrait. The Tea Party believes that the less democratic a government is, the less legitimate its actions are. And, that argument is absolutely correct. Who wouldn't be cynical about any government that favors special interests over the public interest? The rub: traditional Republicans have never disagreed with that sentiment.
I don't buy the one side's cynical delusion that "traditional" Republicans favor special interests in violation of their inalienable rights; that current leadership is too ignorant of the laws of economic cause-and-effect to have any impact on the creation of new and better jobs in our clearly competitive marketplace; or that, local politicians systematically and purposely ignore the will of the people. Our new GOP Chairman uses creative semantics and flawed logic interspersed with small breadcrumbs of truth to rationalize far-fetched hypothesis and impractical conclusions. It's kind of like lying with statistics.
Let me appeal to your good sense and logic by framing local political truths more succinctly. Because we live in a small community, everybody knows everything. Politicians can hide nothing, and laws have long prohibited those smoky back rooms that once sheltered political shenanigans. There's not a single local politician of any stripe who fears using personal good judgment or conscience for fear of losing his or hers job. Why would they? Our political titles are hardly "careers" and we're barely compensated for the public effort volunteered. Better to ask the question, "What would politically motivate any local leader to knowingly do anything that would hurt their family, friends or neighbors"?
What sets traditional Republicans more apart from local Tea Party proponents than anything else is our refusal to adopt negativity and cynicism to justify wishful, tortured, politically self-fulfilling theory. Traditional Republicans are cautious optimists raising glasses half full. We've always recognized that democracy is a dirty business and suspect that much of the Tea Party's bad mood is really just a "Hey, I'm fighting back" reaction by the angered, the indignant, the disenfranchised, or the routinely contrarian. Traditional Republicans are neither naïve nor unwilling to tackle tough jobs and we know there's much to be fixed.
The national Tea Party, while I admire its fiscal conservancy and willingness to stand up for their beliefs, has unquestionably lost huge political influence with its uncompromising attitude, failed leadership, and self-interested aspirations for broad-based political influence. Most fiscally conservative mainstream Republicans actually gravitate in their frustrations toward "independence" over Tea Party citizens-against-everything appeal. Montgomery County's widely respected, best-man-for-the-job, Sheriff Mark Casteel is a perfect example of where successful local politics will increasingly migrate if hard line Tea Party zealotry defeats conservative local Republicans with clever flanking of weakly organized Township officials.
I don't think that these well-meaning but reactionary "new" Republicans/Tea Partiers will acquire the party clout they seek. It won't happen and for pretty much the same reason the Tea Party's national leadership has failed to coerce fiscally conservative Republicans into embracing their hard line cynicism. Sure, "nothing-government-can-ever-be-good" makes us smirk, but does that mean most would choose leadership based on such radically deep-seated negativity and skepticism? From the national vantage, that answer apparently becomes evident to the thoughtful.