There is growing concern over the recent loss of such American icons as Circuit City, the Pontiac Firebird and the Republican Party.
Circuit City and the Firebird are gone, done in by a weak economy. The GOP has been done in by much more than the economy, but there are those who believe the party can be saved, perhaps should be saved, if you really believe our country is better off with two political parties even if one of them has spent the past two decades bad-mouthing the federal government it wants to run.
It is not a pretty picture.
Among Republicans, there are 15 million true believers. They listen to Rush Limbaugh every day, believe everything he says and worship the airwaves he unbalances.
Then there are the moderates, thoughtful, hopeful their party will come to grips with problems that trouble average citizens. At last count, there were nine of these (eight, if Rush has his way with Colin Powell).
Even though the numbers favor Rush and the ditto-heads, Republicans on Capitol Hill don’t want to write off the moderates. Losing a “liberal” like Arlen Specter was okay, but those two women Senators up in Maine should be saved if the East Coast is not to be abandoned altogether.
Southern officeholders, those with the safe seats who can and do say the most outrageous things that leave GOP voters elsewhere gasping and changing their registration, are to do what they were taught as children: be silent and let the adults speak.
The party has to get some new, attractive, young leaders. Newt Gingrich has been around for such a long time people often forget why they don’t like him. Minority whip Eric Cantor is a bright young man who has good ideas but comes across as someone about to foreclose on your house. He and the party also need reminding that while “no” may be a tactic, it is not a policy for rebuilding America.
Above all, the party must put a “cone of silence” over Dick Cheney. They’ve got to get the man to shut up. During his last year in office, Cheney was rarely heard from, and when the economy came apart at the seams he had nothing to say, leaving all the heavy-thinking to W (and we know how that turned out).
When they left the White House, W’s approval ratings were the lowest of any president, ever, but compared to Cheney he was FDR. A tight-lipped W went back to Texas, leaving his legacy to the Ari Fleishers and Fox News. Cheney bounded out of his bunker as if on steroids, appearing on more channels than “Law and Order” re-runs, praising torture and expressing disgust at Republicans like Powell.
Finally, Republicans have to get a grip on taxes. Despite everything Grover Norquist has told them, cutting taxes does not solve every problem. The party needs to understand that our government can’t function without taxes. Despite what Rush tells you, taxes are needed for more than just Medicaid and food stamps. Taxes pay for schools, highways and sewer systems. Taxes pay for our military war machine that the GOP leadership can’t have enough of—they keep throwing money (taxpayer money) at new weapons systems the Pentagon says it doesn’t need.
While the GOP picture may look grim now, we Democrats have been there. We know they just might be one obscure community organizer away from turning it around.
Victor Kamber is a political consultant and author of several books. He is a recipient of the prestigious PR News’ 2006 Hall of Fame Award for outstanding career in labor communications and politics. Those responsibilities have included a multitude of activities including working as a consultant in more than 100 political races and establishing the award-winning communications firm, The Kamber Group.