The Dissenting Party Asks Questions

What do you do when your son wants to drop out of college and become a basketball star?

When your best friend wants to take her estranged husband back after he walked out on her and moved in with his girlfriend…for the fourth time in three years?

When your daughter wants to become an emancipated minor and travel the country with her no-good excessively-pierced-and-tatoo’d motorcycle thug boyfriend?

In a perfect universe, you’d look for ways to refine your message. Look in the mirror to figure out why, thus far, you have not quite managed to get your common-sense through whatever impenetrable barrier is blockading it. But — and this is sad — this is not a perfect universe. Eve did eat of the apple, people are flawed, and although they live on the plane of reality all the time, they’re only open to that plane’s teachings a portion of the time.

Which means it’s quite often that they have to learn from their own mistakes. Time, often, is the teacher of last resort. The best recourse for those of us who can see the plain folly of what’s being done, is to wait, ask that most pointed of questions…”so how’s that workin’ out for ya?”…wait some more…ask again.

Now, lately I’m hearing an awful lot about how the Republicans are facing some kind of crisis about refining their message.

Three months into the new Congress, Republicans are struggling to reinvent themselves on the fly as they adjust to life without a president of their own party or a majority in the House and Senate.

Opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies is relatively easy to achieve. But developing alternatives that can appeal outside the party’s conservative core seems more difficult.

On taxes and other issues, polling suggests Republicans are facing a far different electorate from the one that trusted them with control of Congress for more than a decade and twice elected George W. Bush president.

You have got to be kidding me. I’d sure like to see the questions in that “polling.” Not really; truth be told, there are few matters on which I’ve been able to drum up less curiosity, than about what those polling-questions are. I’m pretty sure I know.
And I’d write them differently. I’d write them…to reflect the choices that really confront Americans. Start with “Is government the solution, or is government the problem?” There. Now how’s that poll looking?

That’s how you refine your message. Stop it with the push-polling…for the other side. Build your polls, instead, around how much Americans do or don’t know about how these problems came to be. Do they understand how it is all these burr-in-the-sweater issues came up in their parents’ and grandparents’ time, and generations later we’re still — laughably — voting in each election cycle on how to fix each one Once And For All?

And if your polls capture ignorance, your message is to educate. If they instead capture knowledge, mixed with apathy, your strategy is to wait. It’s that simple.

But it seems the Republicans who make the decisions, are taking the bait.

“Rhetorically, Republicans are having a very hard time finding something that raises the consciousness of the average voter,” said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who recently lost a bid to became national party chairman.

Workaday labels like “big spender” and “liberal” have lost their punch, and last fall, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska gained little traction during the presidential campaign by linking Mr. Obama’s agenda to socialism.

So Mr. Anuzis has turned to provocation with a purpose. He calls the president’s domestic agenda “economic fascism.”

Yeah good luck on that.

“Your boyfriend’s a scumbag and he won’t be able to provide for you.”

“Screw you, dad, we’re going to live on our love!”

“Alright then, your boyfriend’s a…a…um, an a**hole! There, see the light now?”

That dog ain’t gonna hunt.

People are in the mood for some socialism now. If there was some urgency involved in Republicans refining their vocabulary, using just the right words to prevent some dreadful mistakes from being made, purely out of love for the country…that kind of urgency was defeated when these enormous gobs of money got spent. That was the horse running out of the barn, right there. Everything that can still be prevented, now, is just frosting on the cake.

Some of it still does have some urgency to it. There is a new global warming tax looming. Again, if this is the scumbucket boyfriend with whom the daughter wants to elope, there comes a time you’ll have to admit you can’t stop it.

But there are advantages to being in the opposition. The biggest one which all these stories are missing, is this: You don’t have to come up with the perfect answer. Defeat can be a marvelous coagulant. That’s what these “Republicans trying in vain to hone their message” stories are there to prevent. They are anti-coagulants. The people pushing them understand, implicitly, that if the forces that oppose democrats can be prevented from coming together in their hour of defeat, then they can be prevented from coming together anytime.

That is what needs to be fought. For example: What’s the Republican answer to gay marriage, make it a states’-right thing, or pass an anti-gay-marriage amendment? Answer: WHO CARES? Nobody’s looking to “do” gay marriage the Republican way. That isn’t happening anytime soon, whatever it is. And there sure as h*ll isn’t any same-sex-marriage ban being ratified into the Constitution this year or next. The question is just silly. The only reason to be asking it now, is to push a political agenda and keep the Republicans, and other anti-democrats, splintered apart.

In sum — a party that has been so solidly thrust into the position of the minority…as the democrat party regularly was, just a few years ago…doesn’t have to answer any questions. Such a party gets to ask them, instead. As the democrats did, when they were there.

And the future of the country depends on it. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. What’s a more relevant question to be asking right now: “Should we have a same-sex-marriage ban written into the Constitution?” — or — “Is it possible, or even likely, for a nation to spend itself into prosperity?”

Which one of those questions is more pertinent to the challenges facing us in the year ahead? That debate is settled before it’s begun.

Here’s another one: “Should we have a law against teaching evolution in the public schools?” — or — “Is it proper to put taxes in place for the purpose of controlling people, rather than to raise revenue?”

See how that works? The party-out-of-power, for the good of the country, gets to ask the questions. We really don’t have much to gain from asking quasi-rhetorical questions, leading questions, push-poll questions, for the purpose of making the party-out-of-power look like they belong there. That matter has already been decided. A questioning session about all the things we’re definitely not going to be doing, is just a silly waste of time…and that is at best.

Republicans, libertarians, John Birch Society folks, Objectivists, et al — instead, need to ask the questions about the things we will likely be doing. That’s far more beneficial and a more effective use of time. Are we going to go into debt in order to improve our country’s financial situation? And how does that work, exactly?

Are we going to tax people into the right behavior? What exactly would people have been doing with that money being taxed away, if it weren’t taxed away? When I keep hearing that taxes were cut “for 95% of all households,” is that a literal 95% that is nineteen-out-of-twenty…or is that a figurative 95%…as in “everyone, or something close to everyone, something that might-as-well-be everyone.” (As I’ve said before, and said often, the figure “ninety-five percent” is commonly used to describe both of these, and it’s rather stunning that nobody’s nailed the administration down on this simple but valid point up until now.)

Do we really have a climate change crisis? Is carbon dioxide the cause of it? Actually, you know that particular question has been asked enough…the question we really need to be asking is, instead…can we stop an oncoming climate change crisis by yanking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? Who says so? How far do we need to get that down, in parts-per-million? What does that cost? What happens if we do? What happens if we don’t? Those are the questions that really matter.

See, it comes down to this.

We’ve been conditioned to think everyone who’s asking a question, especially if they’ve been elected into a majority position and then start asking the questions, is thinking like a grown-up. In politics, the opposite is very often true. In April of 2009, there is no reason — none whatsoever — for any grown-ups to be asking what the Republicans would do, if they were in charge of things, to make the country into a Christian theocracy.

There’s no reason to be asking that at all, and to even ponder it is to be thinking like an immature child.

Questions are for the powerful. Just like it was asked of Republicans, years ago, “Is water-boarding torture?”

President Obama, when you were talking about the “failed policies of the Bush administration,” did you have in mind one of the most popular examples of such policies…the repeated failure to veto new spending plans from Congress? Is your $3.6 trillion budget supposed to be a departure from that?

Like that. What is so hard about that?

Let the legislation go forward…but push for sunset provisions. Sit back and wait. Point out the errors that could’ve been prevented. Every now and then, say “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” And most important of all…ask questions. That is the dissenting party’s job. The party-in-power, has the job of answering them. Not asking them.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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