After an often-turbulent, 14-year relationship, the American people broke up with the Republican Party last month, sending a clear message that they had found new suitors in a Democratic President and Congress. Today, and for the next year, the GOP must face a touch choice. Does the party stick around and fight for a love lost, or step back, evaluate what went wrong adopting the classic "it's not you, it's me," strategy to assure the party's long-term viability?
With the events that have unfolded since Republicans were swept out of Washington, it would be tempting to stick around for a fight. The Right's favorite punching bags - the Clintons and their minions are back as part of the Obama Cabinet. Juicy corruption charges are engulfing politicians in the President-elect's home state of Illinois. Congress is on the verge of an historic heist of the taxpayer's treasure.
With so many opportunities, the temptation to score political points today must be unbearable. But for the sake of the Grand Old Party, we must resist.
After winning the hearts and minds of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party during the primaries, President-elect Barack Obama ran in the general election as a blank slate, upon which Americans could pin their hopes and dream that he could change the country to the America they desired. Only after the election when he had to start thinking of governing did Obama shifted to the center of the political spectrum.
Already, there are rumblings from Obama's early supporters that President-elect Obama is not the same man as Candidate Obama. Congressman Barney Frank is already chiding the President-elect for a pledge to be a "post-Partisan" President along the lines of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And Progressive Democrats have created a political action committee to hold members of Congress accountable in 2010 for their votes in the first two years of the Obama Administration.
Given enough time to govern, the Democratic Party will tear itself apart or, at the least, offend the very people who brought them to power. In two or four year's time, the American public's flirtation with one-party rule from the left could be turned into just another "rebound" relationship where, as often in romance, bad judgement trumps common sense.
There is a natural reaction, of course, to rally around the GOP flag. Bring up Bill Clinton's sex-capades, try too hard to link Barack Obama to the auctioneering of his Senate seat, or appear too obstructionist on attempts to fix the American economy. With those "tough love" propositions, Republicans will bring Democrats - and the American public - closer together, not tear them apart. Given enough time - and opportunity - the party's internal divisions will easily boil over.
In order to facilitate the self-destruction of Democratic dominance, Republicans must sit down and shut up for awhile. So for now, it is best that the Grand Old Party take not just forty days and forty nights, but forty weeks in the wilderness. Give the Democratic Party time to bicker, then fight, then tear itself apart.
Step back, and look at how America has changed and how our party must change in order to win it back voters affection, respect and regard.
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