July 19, 2006
[V]oter unrest does not by itself portend wholesale electoral change. Even disgruntled Americans are reluctant to "fire" incumbents if they think they're just trading in one pol for another, regardless of party. That's the lesson of 1994.Democrats fail to grasp the idea that Republicans took control 12 years ago because they ran on ideas and voters responded because they were tired of the "same old, same old". Of course, many a Republican these days seems to have failed to grasp this concept as well.
Led by Newt Gingrich, the GOP candidates that year responded to the disillusionment of voters with the refreshing and specific ideas of the Contract with America. They proved that voters are drawn to issues and genuine political leadership, even in the absence of complete ideological agreement. In my own case, the voters in my district seemed electrified by the positive promise of specific policy proposals related to issues they cared about--fiscal responsibility, ensuring the safety of our homes and streets and schools, securing family values, family-oriented tax policies, strong national defense and commonsense legal reforms. And this was not just a Republican phenomenon. The Contract spoke to a wide cross-section of all voters.
For their part, Nancy Pelosi's Democrats seem confident that they'll sweep into the majority this fall on a single concept: "We're not them." Even their highly anticipated "Take Back America" agenda was little more than a public relations ploy to repackage the same vague and boring platitudes their pollsters have been feeding them since George McGovern: "Putting People First," "Real Security," "Healthcare for All" or "An Economy That Works." Whatever happened to "Where's the Beef?"
As if conducted by a tone-deaf maestro, the Democrats unveiled this agenda against a public chorus of Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean--and Gary Hart. "Take Back America"? Two-thirds of Americans, if they paid any attention at all, probably turned to each other and asked, mystified, when did we ever govern America with them? And Ms. Pelosi is certainly no Newt Gingrich.
Now the party of "same old, same old" thinks that their mere absence has made the voter's hearts grow fonder. If they stick with their current strategy, they're probably in for a big disappointment come November 7.
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