Republican refrain: 'O Captain! My Captain! Who is my Captain?'

Republican refrain: 'O Captain! My Captain! Who is my Captain?'

Atlanta : GA : USA | Nov 15, 2012 at 2:30 PM PST
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A few of these words may remind us of Walt Whitman’s famous tribute to a fallen president, Abraham Lincoln, in his time, but the entire title could easily be framed as a poetic quest to find a modicum of leadership potential within the Republican Party, following its recent rebuke by the American public. One of the GOP’s campaign attacks had been that there was a lack of leadership in the conduct of our national affairs. Yet, after the elections, the party seems stunned and in disarray. Where is GOP leadership when you need it?

Typically, the leader of a political party has always been the last candidate to run for the office of the president. Has John McCain filled that role over the past four years? Judging from his recent comments on Benghazi and his continuous critique since 2008 of all things “Obama,” we would have to question both his judgment and character. We tend to adore our war heroes, and McCain truly deserves to be honored for his service, but his constant whining suggests that sour grapes are grasping his mental capacities so tightly that the wisdom we would like to see from the man is sorely lacking.

After McCain, do we then look to Romney as the new steady hand at the tiller? His first recorded comments following the election, now making the rounds after being made public by the New York Times, would appear to say, “no.” Did we hear prudent and coherent statements that evaluated the circumstances at hand and suggested the best path for progress, something that corporate “problem solvers” are supposed to be good at? Not at all. Instead, he was still fixated on his “47 percent” gripe that Democrats won because they gave people “stuff” and then persuaded them to vote for President Obama.

The origin of this “stuff” argument may not be with Romney. From Bill O’Reilly to Rush Limbaugh, the constant rant has been that Democrats give “stuff” to their base, commandeering everything from the “makers” in our society to reward the “takers” among us for their obvious laziness, all code words to inflame the Far Right and poor more gasoline on the fires of racism. Republicans are actually great at giving “stuff,” too, like invasive pro-life legislation, tax breaks for the wealthy and tax loopholes for large corporations, but we hear none of this from their quarters. Republicans are quite accomplished at projecting their own faults onto others.

Exactly what are the specifics regarding Democratic “gifts,” the new sound-bite phrase of the moment? Banks were caught gauging student-loan programs and were removed from the process. Was lowering student-loan costs a “gift” or curbing the greed of aggressive bankers? Obamacare addressed a woman’s need for easy access to contraceptives. Catholic priests may have objected, but women and Catholics voted predominantly for the Democratic ticket. Was approving the “Dream Act” a gambit to attract Hispanic voters? It might well have been, but telling an entire race of people to self-deport was not a way to influence people and win over enemies.

Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain's 2008 loss, recently opined that the word “conservative” in today’s mainstream congers up visions of “loons and wackos.” On “Meet the Press,” he went further to add, “We gave up five US Senate seats over the last two election cycles by people who were just out there, completely extreme, manifestly unprepared for the offices that they’re running for. Our elected leaders are scared to death of the conservative entertainment complex, the shrill and divisive voices that are bombastic and broadcasting out into the homes.”

Wow! Finally, a voice of reason arises from the Republican rubble. Far too much of the “banter” of the past 10 days has dealt with contrite rebukes of the common voter. Blaming the electorate is no way to claw your way to future glory. Cosmetic changes will not win the day either. More introspective analysis is called for, before rushing to judgment on what and where changes must be made. The GOP is at a critical crossroads—it must reinvent its message or be cast to the trash heap of old and outworn ideas.

Yet the debate has now gone full circle. In order to reinvent the party there must be wise and strong leaders who seize the opportunity and make things happen. But, once again, who are these leaders? They are not Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity from the “conservative entertainment complex.” These two hucksters, along with a cast of other lesser evils, are in it for the money and are laughing all the way to the bank, making a wealthy living off duping the low-information voters among us. If they were serious about helping the country, they would run for public office.

Outside of Schmidt, the most reasonable comments have been emanating from none other than Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina raised his profile to national prominence, but his comments were more negative than constructive over time. Of late, however, he appears to be one Harvard grad who may have a plan for the future. His recent remarks have been critical of the GOP, saying it must stop being the “Stupid Party.”

He went on to elaborate in an interview with Politico: “It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments—enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Here! Here! Has a new “Captain” appeared? Or will we have to seek out another while we “with mournful tread, walk the deck my Captain lies, fallen cold and dead.” Time will tell! Lean forward!

If you like writing about US politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and Nov. 15. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded in December.

TomCleveland is based in Gainesville, Georgia, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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