Ever thought about running for political office? If so, do yourself a favor, throw in with the G.O.P.
Why? Because being a Democrat sucks.
We have had candidates streaming into our office, people running for everything from county attorney to sheriff to state representative to governor. Many of them sit down with our editorial staff to answer questions and discuss their views. I view it as my job to make that experience tough, something they hopefully remember. No matter their political affiliation I want to shoot holes in their platform. I look at it as testing them to see what they are made of, whether they have whatever it is voters deserve.
A recent visitor, Jackie Cilley, is running for the governor’s seat, and her visit got me thinking about how hard it is to be a democrat today. The Republican Party today has a strong bias towards one thing — cutting government. It has gotten to a point where longtime establishment Rockefeller Republicans have told me they feel ostracized in their own party. Dept and spending need to be slashed, the argument goes, even if it threatens our nation’s credit rating (last year’s debt ceiling debate).
With that in mind, think about what it takes to run as a Republican. Think about how those candidates address editorial boards like ours. What would you like to do about taxes? “Cut them.” Should the government regulate (fill in the blank)? “No, government is the problem. We need to get government out of the way.” What should we do about unemployment? (Or health care, or public transportation, or the banking sector, or…) “Again, we need to get government out of the way. Let the public sector work. Government is not the answer.”
It is an easy game. The unrestrained free market mantra in vogue with the G.O.P. right now has an obvious script, and anyone can play.
Democrats, however, have a harder task. They have to talk about services and taxes, and they have to get it right. It’s easy to point out education funding got cut and the roads are in disrepair, but how do you plan to generate the revenue to rectify that problem? How can we be sure your new environmental (labor, financial, etc.) regulations will be reasonable, not onerous? How do you plan to pay for increased unemployment benefits (social services, health care, etc.)?
These are no easy answers. There are lots of pitfalls, lots of opportunities to look like you’re just trying to grow the state machine. There is no mantra you can memorize to handle every question. The challenge is much greater than that Republicans face.
It used to be the two parties both agreed government provided a needed service, it was just the degrees that differed. It was a Republican, not a Democrat, (Nixon) who created the Environmental Protection Agency. It was President Eisenhower who created the interstate system. But today the boundaries have shifted. Democrats are the only ones arguing for services (mostly), while Republicans are itching to eliminate everything.
And it’s the Democrats who face the uphill battle.