Who Will Lead the Country Back to the Basics?

Vice President Biden says, "Washington right now is broken." That's a good thing if it gives "we the people" an opportunity to fix it, something neither major party wants to do. Why should they? With few exceptions, both parties want the same things: power and more of it. The words "of the political class, by the political class, and for the political class" pretty much exclude the rest of us. Only twenty-one percent of voters nationwide say that the government has the consent of the governed; sixty-three percent of the political class think there is consent.

Both major parties have leaders but they do more shoving than leading, often without knowing a useful direction in which to shove. Senator Evan Bayh says partisanship is out of control. Representative Barney Frank says the same thing, and he should know. There are reasons for the divisiveness, and many of them stem from and produce impotence and its colleague, frustration. So much was promised in 2008, yet there have been bad consequences for many and significant benefits for very few. Lots of the people to whom the wonders of Obama Land were promised have decided that they don't want them, can't afford them, or in any event won't get them. This makes those who promised them look incompetent, and that leads to frustration. Perhaps we should offer President Obama a hearty round of applause for masterminding the creation of these opportunities. It may be the only good thing he has done for the country.

The opportunities are there, just waiting to be seized. The Democrats are fading fast and are rightly concerned that they will do poorly in the 2010 congressional elections without -- or perhaps worse with -- President Obama's help. Nor is he faring well, with fifty-two percent not wanting him to get another term in office. These problems are unlikely to be solved soon. The AP reports:

Obama's expansive domestic goals are largely the same, but his message is changing, now constructed around a concession that the public is disillusioned and wanting results. If he cannot show people that he understands their frustration and is working to fix it, the risks are real.

All that angst that Obama wants to harness as a force for change -- as he did in his campaign -- will turn against him. That means eroding public support for his agenda and potentially big losses for his party this year in congressional midterm elections.

The Democrats are in a defensive mode and don't know whether to lean to the left (with President Obama), to the right (against President Obama), to do both, or to do neither. The task is made more difficult since it is tricky to predict which way he will appear to lean and the changes in direction are rapid and erratic. Spend us into oblivion and then promise to balance the budget; damn nuclear power to please the greens and then mendaciously pretend to finance a banquet of green pork to seem to throw everybody a bone; the list could go on and on. While trying to decide what to do, the Democrats are racing for the exits.

Even though the mainstream Republicans think they will do OK in the elections this year, and most likely will, they haven't figured out which way to appear to lean either. Should they be content to stick with a safe but ho-hum posture exemplified by former presidential contender Senator McCain, or flit off into uncharted territory with less moderate conservatives?

So long as both major parties are focused principally on their short-term tactical goals of winning the 2010 congressional elections, as distinguished from the long-term strategic goal of achieving what's best for the future of the United States, neither is likely to focus on what needs to be done. They must be reminded of their obligations and that failure to meet them has consequences -- for them as well as for the rest of us. As noted here, it is necessary to "send a clear message to senators across the country that they do not own the offices they hold. They might then learn that they will be called to account and replaced if they are not responsive to the party base."

The entitlement mentality is contrary to what most conservatives hold dear and there is an increasing perception that incumbents are not ipso facto entitled to reelection. Neither is a political party; the Ted Kennedy seat is gone. From Rasmussen Reports:

Most voters think the country would be better off if the majority of the current Congress wasn’t reelected this November, and their confidence in their own congressman continues to fall.

The tea party movement is remarkably diverse but united on only a few extraordinarily important goals: respect for the United States Constitution, America's safety, and freedom to the extent possible from governmental meddling. These basic goals are the principal distinguishing factors. In other respects, as noted by Lloyd Marcus:

the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of tea party patriots are all over the place. What a mess! Well, I say, how wonderful! I mean, think about it. Millions of Americans who have been passively watching our country slipping away for years are suddenly passionately seeking to restore it. So frankly, I do not care if the movement is a bit wild and free. Scott Brown's shocking, historic win in Massachusetts confirms that we are making a huge difference.

If subsumed by the mainstream Republican Party or if it loses sight of the basics, the tea party movement will probably be a flash in the pan. Otherwise, it augurs an incipient groundswell. Ditto Governor Palin; Senator Brown, and Marco Rubio, a candidate for the Florida senatorial nomination. They unite on only the few critical goals and do not speak with a monolithic voice, nor should they; their supporters certainly do not. At best, trying to do so leads to mediocrity. We have seen that in both of the major political parties, and we have seen the consequences for the United States. Fortunately, nobody leads the tea party movement now.