By: J. Charles Coughlin
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
It has been a frustrating fall for me. Most people who know me are aware that I am passionate about Michigan Football and getting things done in politics. If at least one of those things is going well, I’m usually okay. I’m not okay right now.
I grew up in the era of the 10 year war and witnessed the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry blossom under the leadership of two incredible leaders: Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Those ten years established in me a personal quest to be as good as you could possibly be, to excel, to push, to strive, to succeed. If you leave your best on the field, you have done your best and that is all that can be asked.
I have taken those lessons into my professional life and have tried to emulate those standards in my role as a public affairs professional and as a campaign consultant. I have had the pleasure of working for Governor Fife Symington who embodied the spirit of government reform and for Governor Jan Brewer who took hold of the reins of government at the worst of times. Just like Bo and Woody, Fife and Jan have had their faults as well; we all do, but we persevere.
At HighGround, we pride ourselves on doing the hard things well, winning tough campaigns, fighting for difficult issues, and leaving our best on the field. Like the sport I witnessed every Saturday in the fall, it takes a team of people, all executing on a game plan to win any given contest.
Unfortunately, the current state of the Michigan football program is a lot like the current state of Republican politics. We keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
Michigan’s current ineptitude is personified in the current Offensive Coordinator, who insists on running the ball even when the opponent puts nine guys into a defensive formation in anticipation of stopping the very play they know that Michigan will run.
To make this perfectly clear, Nebraska Sophomore Defensive End Randy Gregory (who had three sacks in the game on Saturday against Michigan) said in the post game news conference, “Whatever formation they came out in, we knew what they were going to throw at us.” Jason Ankrah, another Nebraska Defensive End, also told the Detroit News that, “We knew what they were going to do right before they did it.”
So, you are asking, “Okay, Michigan’s offense is predictable, but what does this have to do with Republican politics?”
This is really the straw that is breaking my back lately. My party keeps doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The GOP has lost two consecutive national elections to arguably the most liberal President ever to be elected in the history of these United States.
Despite this abysmal record, Republicans appear to be intent to continue to run the ball exclusively from the Tea Party playbook. The GOP game plan is to run the ball at those same constituencies that they have time and again, effectively shutting our game down at the line of scrimmage of national elections.
To accentuate this point, the Maricopa County Republican Party’s Executive Committee this week censured the Governor and legislative leaders who supported her in efforts to restore Medicaid funding to 260,000 Arizonans who qualify under state law for the State’s Medicaid program (AHCCCS) and extend benefits to 40,000 other Arizonans under a provision of the Affordable Care Act. This act will save Arizona taxpayers over a billion dollars per year, but because it was part of Obamacare, the opponents believe it violates the very principle of being a Republican these days â€“ the steadfast need to just say no in any and all situations.
I don’t think that Republican principles, or Big Ten Football for that matter, are dead. Deep down, both are fundamentally good and resonate with the hard working people of America. However, both are stuck in a place where tradition and inflexibility are standing in the way of getting things done.
Democratic electoral turnout continues to rise while Republican turnout continues to flat line. Non-traditional voting constituencies such as Independents and swing Republican voters continue to tune out or turn off the “run only” offense directed by GOP leadership.
Politics, of course, abhors a vacuum and that is why the union interests that continue to dominate Democratic Party politics (SEIU, UFCW, Unite Here, AFSCME and others) continue to prosper electorally at the great economic expense of the rest of the country.
Public employee benefits and pensions go unaddressed, voters continue to decline additional spending for education initiatives because of the inherent lack of confidence in the public educational bureaucracy which governs educational spending initiatives, and our stifling national deficit and the economic uncertainty it brings freezes business investment opportunities that would give life again to the American dream.
Finally, implementation of health care reform is a disaster, because Democrats can’t implement policies which admittedly have serious problems and Republicans continue to undermine any efforts by not offering politically acceptable alternative solutions. Both Michigan and Nebraska played poorly this weekend. The Huskers, like the Democrats, didn’t play better; they just found a way to play slightly less poorly.
Personally, I am more embarrassed to tell people what I do these days than to admit that I am a Michigan football fan (I will never abandon the spirit of Bo). But when I tell people I run campaigns, they look at me like I am a complete knucklehead. A vast majority of my anecdotal experiences have gone like this: “I throw all that mail out, I tune out the television ads, I don’t listen to shout radio anymore, quit calling my voicemail and finally how on God’s earth can you stand working in that business?”
Both parties are financially dominated by interests who only care about perpetuating their own authority or righteousness. Solving some our nations’ most vexing problems would require compromise, a word which is an anathema to organized ideologically based special interests.
Real change comes from individuals, not institutions. Stop paying attention to brands, start paying attention to individual voices.
Our political institutions are morally and intellectually bankrupt. The electorate, that means you Independents, swing Republicans and conservative Democrats, need to start listening for voices which support economic compromise.
Listen for thoughtful voices on economic issues. Begin rewarding those voices with your vote, a campaign contribution, a forwarding of a thoughtful opinion piece, a “like” button on your Facebook page, a retweet of a thoughtful statement.
Get engaged. Pay attention. Nobody will do this for you and it is vitally important to any future American generation that you get this and get it now. The American dream is about to be sold to the richest one percent in the nation or mortgaged forever by those who don’t understand what it is to grind out a hard day’s work.
Just like America, the talent is there, the leadership is not.