There is plenty for Republicans to point out to keep Americans focused on the obstacles facing the White House and the Democrats for one reason or another. There’s the BP spill and the failure of oversight to regulate BP after one of its 760 violations before the gulf turned black. There’s the support for Elena Kagan as the right choice for the Supreme Court, although her lack of experience and academic and political accomplishments sounds an awful lot like the gentleman that nominated her—the same one that is struggling with the oil off the coasts in the Gulf. With the latest numbers due on unemployment on the heels of the G-20 in Toronto, there’s the outright failure of the 2009 stimulus package that Democrats pushed through to get the economy going again.
I could on. And, from all accounts, it seems as though many of those items are more important to the public and the media at this time.
However, as fickle and emotional as American politics is right now, Republicans on Capitol Hill are now approaching the bulls-eye of Americans’ angst with their latest legislative move in the Senate.
Granted, the concerns for deficit spending have not lessened at all during the Great Recession nor should they, not with the passage of Obamacare and rumors of another stimulus package for the states. With that said, though, last week’s vote against extending unemployment benefits for Americans—including folks living in areas where unemployment rates locally top the 10 percent rate nationally—makes the 40 or so senators voting against the measures resemble the very Republican stereotypes that an increasingly-frustrated American public which faces the prospects of a double-dip recession and a permanent jobless recovery rampaged against at the polls against in 2006 and 2008. In those years, Republicans were voted out of office over the war effort and dissatisfaction with President Bush. This fall, votes such as last week’s blockage of needed unemployment resources could lead to political problems down the road.
As with many things conservative, the theory behind their collective “nay” vote makes sense—deficit spending must be stopped immediately, so money for much-needed unemployment benefit extensions should be found from other currently-funded programs instead of borrowing even more money—but articulating the long-term reasoning behind the conservative stance must be made with better precision and connectivity with voters than past Republican initiatives have been with initiatives including tax cuts, the war effort, and illegal immigration. In each instance, Republicans have allowed their brand and image to be defined by Democrats. As a result, good conservative theory and intentions for the American people have been lost at the polls as Republicans’ inability to articulate their values and initiatives led to squandered opportunities for leadership, chiefly because Republicans wore the labels “elitist” and “detached from the American people”, ones pinned on them by their Democratic opposition at election time.
By voting against the unemployment extension last week in its latest legislative form, the Republicans in the Senate are taking a calculated risk—not only for those colleagues running for re-election, but for the hundreds of Republicans running for a 2-year term in the House of Representatives. Tea Party activists—the influential and well-educated base for conservatives today—may understand and support the merits of the move, but their overall electoral influence is diminished by the pure numbers of frustrated general election voters that may disapprove of this stance.
Last week’s vote was less of a conservative risk than it was a big risk by conservatives in the Senate. It is a move that may come back to haunt them politically in November, even as they make the case that not casting their “nay” votes would come back to haunt America economically in the future. Both sides of the argument will have legitimate passion fueling it. The best articulated side of the argument will be the one that prevails and perhaps helps shape America.
It is said that successful leadership is borne from the ability of folks to take proper risks, articulate a vision, and direct a better long-term future. Republicans have never had a problem doing the first of the three items. However, without better meeting the second condition, we will have a hard time securing the third, even if out-of-work Americans end up getting the extensions for the near term.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. Lenny is the guest host of “The Other Side with Charles Butler” on WVON AM 1690 “The Talk of Chicago” (streaming live at www.wvon.com) all week from 7:00 PM—10 PM CST. Catch Lenny on “Conservative Crosstalk Commentary featuring Lenny McAllister” every Friday at 12:15 PM CST on CNN Radio 650 Houston starting this week. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .