>A common cliche I hear over and over again this election season is that “we need someone who can bring the two parties together and accomplish the work of the American people. Candidate X is the candidate who can unite us.” Sounds good. Its an effective applause line. We heard similar rhetoric in 2000 when George W. Bush claimed to be a uniter, not a divider. But what does it really mean? What are we uniting around? Maybe more importantly, do we really want the President and the Congress to be about the work of the American people, aka: passing more and more legislation?
First, here’s what we are supposed to unite around. One, the candidates want us to unite around them. Much of our politics is infused with a celebrity-oriented, entertainment type of quality. The candidates work to strike certain poses. Everything is crafted to portray specific images. Poses and images, not substance. Personality trumps principle. Secondly, when we are actually presented with ideas to unite around they are so generic that anyone could support them. For instance, the Governor of Massachusetts in an editorial today gave this explanation for Why America Needs Obama: “At a time when so many of us – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – are tired of petty division and desperate for change, Obama makes a claim on all of us to join in restoring the American dream.” The American dream has been lost and only Obama can restore it. The American dream – who’s gonna argue against that? If we could ever get the candidates to give us the details of what the American dream means to them, we’d see that Democrats and Republicans have radically different ideas about what the American dream looks like (yes, they do). Instead, when we are given ideas to unite around they are catch-lines such as “Change!,” “Leadership. Now,” “Moving Forward” and the like. The big ideas we are given to unite around are carefully-crafted personalities and focus group-tested catch phrases.
Next, do we really want someone who is going to reach across party lines to accomplish the work of the American people? The work of the American people in pol-speak is more legislation. That’s not what we want, is it? The last thing we need is a candidate who’s going to work with the Congress to expand the government’s cradle-to-grave control over our lives. The last thing we need is more government solutions to cure all the world’s ailments. And I don’t think its too much of a stretch to say that our elected officials don’t have a very good track record of reaching across party lines to pass legislation. Remember the Bush/Kennedy education bill? If that’s what bringing the parties together means, I don’t want it.
Here is what I want. I want a candidate who can lay out a vision of executive leadership that is based on principle rather than flash and sizzle. Conservative principles, of course. Lead a majority movement of traditional-minded, conservative-living, hard-working citizens from both parties, like Reagan did, and earn a mandate from the people. Have the other party get on board with your agenda rather than sticking your finger in the wind and caving in on the principles that got you elected. This is what Reagan did even with a Democrat-controlled Congress and it can be done again. He didn’t cave in to those whose policies would be bad for the nation just for the sake of bringing the parties together. He didn’t bow before a hostile media in order to give a false impression of unity.
I do want a President who is going to go to work for the American people but I care much more about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it than I do about the air-brushed personalities and spin-doctored platitudes we’re being fed in this election. Character over celebrity, principles over pop, and substance over slick style. That’s what I want. Which candidate can step up to the plate?