Why The Republicans Are Losing My Vote
The 2006 midterm elections are six months from today, and I'm in somewhat of a quandary. I've been a Republican my whole life; I've voted for a couple of Democrats for Senator and Governor when I was in the Navy, but Nebraska Democrats would pretty much be Republicans anywhere else. This year, though, I'm afraid I'm going to do something that I never thought would happen -- if the election were held today, I'd vote for Democrats pretty much across the board.
Normally, that's not a big deal in a non-Senatorial midterm election. This year, though, the Idaho 1st District Congressional seat is open, and if current trends continue, it could be one of the seats that decides who controls the House. I'm planning on voting for Democrat Larry Grant not only because he seems to be the best candidate, but also to send a message to the Administration and the Congressional Republicans as a whole -- you had your chance, but you screwed it up, and if you don't straighten up right away, We The People are going to replace you with someone different -- maybe not better, but they couldn't be worse.
What have the Administration and Republican legislators done to make me change my mind that Republicans are normally the best option during times of trouble? I have three main reasons: lack of competence, lack of fiscal and ethical responsibility, and most importantly, lack of steadfastness in prosecuting the War on Terror.
In the past, Republicans have been known as being more "competent" that Democrats; Dave Barry once wrote that if your car was broken down on the side of the road, a Republican would drive by without stopping; a Democrat would stop, but would accidentally burn your car to the ground in the process of trying to help. I've always thought that this was because Republicans, more interested in the "bottom line", would hire staffers based on who could do the best job, whereas Dems were driven more by ideology. The current crop of Republicans, though, seems to be just as ideologically-driven as the most progressive Dems; while Dems believe that people won't try to take advantage of you when you offer to do things for them that they should be doing for themselves, the "new Republicans" seem to operate under the assumption that it'll all work out no matter if they work hard or not, because God is on their side. I haven't seen much real-world evidence that either belief is true.
When I was at CENTCOM, I didn't work directly with the political appointees in D.C., but I worked with the people who went to meetings with them. It was then that I started realizing that the civilians we had in charge either weren't aware, or didn't care, that you couldn't just assume that "everything would work out" -- to use an old Sub Force saying, "You get what you inspect, not what you expect". The "Staffer's Hard Sayings Log" is full of examples of frustration from people trying their best to accomplish objectives that had no basis in reality, but it was something that the civilian leadership in D.C. thought would be a "good idea". That's the kind of thing you expected to have to do when Dems were in control, not Republicans -- until the last few years, at least…
Republicans currently in charge of Congress don't seem to me to be Conservative at all, if by "Conservative" you mean supporting less government intrusion in our lives and concern about increased government spending. They've run up huge deficits while arrogantly refusing to cut pork, and have no one to blame but themselves -- they control the whole budget process. Their recent attempt to "reform" ethics is, quite simply, a joke -- it's as if they don't even care that the voters know it's a sham. Why can't they even pretend to give up their boondoggle overseas "fact-finding" trips?
The last straw for me, though, is the failure of the Administration to prosecute the Global War On Terror with the level of intensity that I think is required. They started off pretty well, but somewhere they lost the way. I believed President Bush when he told the world that, "If you're not with us, you're against us". Coming up on five years later, we have the remnants of Al Qaeda's leadership hiding in NW Pakistan, and all we can do is an occasional Predator attack. I understand that it would be diplomatically difficult to get boots on the ground there, but I believe that had President Bush kept his eye on the ball, we could have convinced the Pakistani leadership to let us in. Likewise, I liked the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but the Administration's failure to understand the Arab mindset, as well as failing to adequately explain to the American people why this was important (hint: WMDs weren't the main reason, but it was the most convenient reason) was a huge missed opportunity from which it'll take a while for us to recover. Just as disappointing to me is the Republican's failure to ask those of us not on active duty (or their loved ones) to sacrifice for the war effort. The continued emphasis on tax cuts during wartime sends the exact wrong message, as well as contributing to an obscene bloating of the federal deficit.
Some might say that it would send the wrong message to our enemies to change horses in mid-stream; I say that this concern isn't valid, and here's why. Secretary Rumsfeld is right that this is going to be a long war; we can't expect to keep the same party in power for a generation or more (especially if they aren't serious about prosecuting the war). I think that when our enemies see that the Democrats are willing to continue the war (which they will; they're even more poll-driven than the Republicans, and scared to death of being seen as weak on national security) they'll come to realize that they don't just have to wait for a change in American politics. And honestly, it'll be hard for President Bush to legitimately open another front in the War. I don't think we'll have to attack Iran -- this will be a chance for a "Cold War" style victory for us in the GWOT. (We've already seen tensions between the Revolutionary Guard and regular Iranian armed forces that we should be able to exploit if we're smart.) If we do end up needing to go into Iran, I'd say that as only Nixon could go to China, only [insert Democrat's name here] could occupy Teheran -- that's political reality.
My bottom line: The Republicans currently in power have, through intellectual laziness, greed, and lack of vision, squandered an opportunity to lead the nation, and the world, into the new century. It's time for them to be pushed aside and let someone else try. And if they nominate a screwball for President in 2008 (and the Dems cast aside their recent history and nominate someone who isn't ridiculous) I could even see myself voting for a Democrat for President. I'm not there yet, but I could almost see myself going there is the Republicans don't straighten up.
Don't get me wrong; Idaho Dems aren't perfect. They have their share of moonbats, but the tin-foil hatters seem to be pretty marginalized from any actual political power; you only hear about them from their websites and on the Letters To The Editor page of the paper. Idaho Republicans, on the other hand, seem to not only listen to the black helicopter crowd, they even occasionally elect one of them to Congress. I don't want to be a part of that.
Standing by for incoming...
Update 1923 07 May: Chrys has some good thoughts she put up on her blog, and Sara mentions my post over at her place.