Imagine that you are the parent of nine children. Three children are three years of age, three are nine and three are sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, respectively. Now imagine that your children get to vote for who their parents are. The opponent who is running against you has several credit cards and has promised to use those cards to supply the three and nine year olds with almost anything they want. The teenagers will have to work to help pay off the debt. Given these circumstances, would you, as a loving and caring person, be voted in as their parent? It is understood that sometime in the future the debt of those credit cards will have to be paid by the kids. The teenagers would realize that this is not a good situation and would more than likely vote for the more responsible parents. The three year olds would believe your opponents when they told them that they are "entitled" to all the candy they can eat and that it is wrong that you insist on a bedtime. The election outcome may pivet on the nine year olds. What would your message be?
The situation described above is similar to what conservatives who run for office face. One third of the electorate will vote Republican, one third will vote Democrat and the other third will decide the outcome of the election. We have recently had Republicans who have shifted left to gain office. They have bought into the notion that they must promise to give things in order to get elected. Conservatives will never win in a contest of desirable outcome. We see that these outcomes are not possible. We also see that the debt incured by promising welfare entitlements is bankrupting the country. Sharing the wealth that other people have earned is a disincentive to those earning it, thus crippling the economy. Not to mention it is just wrong to give to other people someone else's gain.
Given this situation, can a conservative who remains true to his principles get elected? Can someone run on the idea that we need to scale back on the "give away" programs run by the Federal government? An example of what is run by the feds that could be more effectively handled by the states is the Department of Education. Ronald Reagan tried to eliminate this department that he called "Carter's boondoggle". He was met with fierce opposition by the very powerful teacher's unions. We, as a society, have become so used to how much the Federal government is in are lives that there is real fear in losing our security net (regardless of the tremendous waste that we all know occurs in Washington).
There were two people who were able to get elected to the office of president that did not promise a laundry list of goodies. One said, "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what can you do for your country." This was followed up by, "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." The other said, "Goverment is not the solution to our problem, goverment is the problem". In spite of the messages (or maybe because of them), they were both very popular. It gives me hope for this country that Ronald Reagan and John F.Kennedy could talk of a vision for our country that did not consist of our goverment taking care of us and still get elected.
When I talked to my wife about my "nine children" analogy, she was quite certain that she would be elected as their mother. When pressed, she explained that she could convey, even to the three year olds, the ramifications of their decisions. Upon further reflection, I believe that she is right.
One obvious reason is the bond between parents and their children. Their is a bond that we share as Americans, as well. When I compare the words of Obama to those of Reagan, I notice that where Obama uses the word, "I", Reagan used words such as, "we" and "fellow Americans". Where Obama talks of how America should be, Reagan spoke of America's greatness. There has never been a greater nation than the United States of America and that fact has to be part of our message.
We expect our children to act in a proper manner. I believe that we should expect upright behavior from our leaders as well as ourselves and America will respond to that message. We have lowered expectations for our leaders and they in return view us as the three year olds in my analogy. We complain about how crooked politians are and yet we continue to elect them. Is it for the goodies they promise us? They certainly think so. Our message needs to be that there are expectations for both the electorate and the elected .
Sincerity is the key ingredient in the making of our message. Good parents know that they need to be honest and direct with their children as well as consistent. One reason President Reagan was so popular is that the people could see that he actually tried to do what he said he would do. One example of this was his budget proposals. Every budget he submitted to congress was balanced, as promised. Speaker of the House at the time, Tip O'Neill, would declare Reagan's budget proposals "dead on arrival" refusing to take responbility for cutting spending.
Where my analogy does not fit is in the fact that we want as little government involvement in our lives as possible. Yet it is the goal of good parents to raise their children in such a manner that they will become independent adults. If liberals raise their children in the way they run the government, I can't imagine their kids ever leaving home.
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
- de Tocqueville 1831
- de Tocqueville 1831