Thursday, November 6, 2008

Needed: New Republican Leadership in Congress

Republicans are about to enter wilderness years in Washington, far out of power. All, however, is not lost if they use this time profitably in careful self-examination and then in the methodical rebuilding of their policies and strategies. Crucial to this process is the immediate step of choosing new party leaders.

Among their failures, Republican leaders have done an astonishingly poor job of winning hearts and minds over to their cause. Political leaders should always be educating and explaining and persuading, and should view this public advocacy as important as their voting and legislative maneuvering. Look at the more successful Democrats. I may not like them, but I know well who Pelosi, Reid, and Dean are, for they use every opportunity to speak out against Republicans and to advance their agenda, which in turn help to elect more Democrats. This they did even when in the minority. They may be personally unappealing, but they are vocal, visible, and unrelenting, and so their message continually percolates through the electorate. What a chance now for Republicans to put forward new, intelligent, energetic, articulate, persuasive, and telegenic leaders to contrast with these unpopular, shrill demagogues.

Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner, Republican minority leaders, are almost unknown to the public, most of which is politically only semi-attentive at best. So what messages have they conveyed, what voters have they persuaded? Whatever their back-room skills at legislative maneuvering, they have been singularly ineffective in establishing and maintaining a high-profile advocacy role with which to advance Republican and conservative ideals and policies. And how many Republicans can name the party’s national chair – Howard Dean’s opposite number? With a Democrat in the White House, Republican congressional leaders will now be the face of the party to the nation (and to the world).

Time now for new leaders who can not only maneuver and vote on the inside but who can also persuade and recruit on the outside. Sticking with the old who have had their chance and who have come up wanting, however well-intentioned, well respected, and legislatively-effective they may be, will show that lessons have not been learned, that realities have not yet penetrated, and that opportunities are still squandered.

John Michael Greco

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