To say the Republican Party lacks strong leadership is to say that Jeffrey Dahmer had an image problem. Rarely in the well-scripted world of American politics do we get a chance to see a “rising-star” for a major political party go in front of the nation and look like a kindergarten teacher with a lobotomy.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was not given the easiest job last Tuesday night. He was supposed to give a speech following President Obama’s de facto first State of the Union Address, keeping in mind that the president has an approval rating of over 60 percent. But Jindal’s Elmo-esque performance left quite a lot to be desired. He redefined what it means to suck at reading from a teleprompter, and all the while looked shortsighted and buffoonish.
Now, Jindal may be able to rebound from this debacle, similar to Bill Clinton after his 1988 Keynote Speech at the DNC Convention. But this guy needs to loosen up a little. According to 60 Minutes, Jindal does not drink, smoke or use curse words, which sounds noble in its intentions—but there is something to be said for a politician who will have a few, go on stage and call his opponent different anatomical parts.
Jindal was certainly not the only prominent member of the GOP to get caught up in the leadership catastrophe over the past couple weeks. Michael Steele, the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee, decided the first step in rebuilding the party was to get into an inches contest with Rush Limbaugh.
To quote the always-eloquent Keyshawn Johnson, “The one thing you never want to do is get into a pissing match with a skunk.” Chairman Steele might want to listen to such profound words of wisdom because he cannot beat Rush in theses sort of confrontations.
Limbaugh is a jackass, but he is good at being one. The feeble minded people who listen to him love him so much that Steele would only look like an idiot for trying to step into the ring with the hypocritical radio star who loves to scream the term “elitist liberal” into his literally gold microphone.
But Steele is right that Limbaugh is a problem for the Republican Party. He is a very divisive character whom the vast majority of Americans find objectionable. This is not a problem the new chairman can tackle head-on. He must change the culture of the party from one that treats the words of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and Boortz like they are the four gospels, to a party that develops a message that resonates with the people across America.
Conservative values are still alive and well in the United States, and as long as Senator Charles Schumer wants to say that the American people really care about tiny, porky amendments, Republicans will still have a very receptive audience. But the new leaders of the party must find a way to make this message meaningful to a new generation and rebuild bridges with older generations.
I admire Steele’s idea of brining the Republican message to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” But I just do not think it will work. Republicans need not worry about being the cool party, or the party of celebrities, because in all honestly I doubt the majority of the electorate listens to Hollywood for political advice.
I do not believe the Republican Party should want the CMAs to become its yearly gathering event. There are too many braches in pop culture for Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, to appeal to. The GOP needs to get back to basics, crafting a well-honed message outlining basic conservative values.
The Party needs to say adieu to the gimmicks of nominating a female vice president simply because she is a woman, or putting out a young Governor from Louisiana to give the GOP response simply because he is young and of a darker complexion. While I agree that Republicans cannot survive by being the party of old, white men, they will also die if they do not put out a legitimate alternative.
When 16 years ago, Clinton tried to do many things Obama is now doing, he and the Democrats were handed one of the worst midterm losses ever. Why? Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey were able to unite Republicans with their Contract with America.
Could John Boehner and Eric Cantor unite the party from the House to have at least a respectable showing in the midterms? Maybe, but right now the only way for those to leave the world of political obscurity would be for them to streak across the Capitol Rotunda.