Column: Earning the mandate

By Kiyoshi Martinez

When President Bush was elected along with a majority in the House and Senate, the conservatives and Republicans declared a mandate. They had it all and some change to spare.

But now, the GOP is losing ground and the losses keep compounding into a negative media machine. Bush may have his four more years, but he risks the chance of being a lame duck a year from now with midterm elections on the horizon.

Where’s the mandate?

Republicans need to stop shooting themselves in the foot: DeLay, Miers, Brown, Libby. I’m sure this list will continue to grow, which isn’t an encouraging prospect.

Locally, in the state of Illinois, the GOP isn’t doing much better. The specter of George Ryan plays itself in the Chicago media five days a week. One of the better Republican prospects to challenge Gov. Blagojevich has only managed to make headlines by protesting T-shirts. When I see a candidate who wants to be a leader of Illinois introducing a state senate resolution to boycott a business practicing free speech, I want to bang my head against a wall. State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger has reduced himself to a mirror image of Blagojevich and his Safe Games Illinois Act.

Does the GOP have no enemies left? Do they not have real causes to fight for? Do they intend to replace substance with grandstanding? It seems that way sometimes.

Instead of adapting and growing the base of voters and weighing in with a moderate stance, conservatives push ballot measures to save the institution of marriage from gays. In Texas, it is quite literally, Heaven forbid!

I hate to say it, but these days I feel like a Democrat. My party has lost its focus, lacks strong leaders (or formidable foes to current leadership) and talks tough on softball issues. There’s a feeling of disenfranchisement from a party that merely a year ago I thought was on the right track, and every action the GOP and conservatives take just pushes themselves away from the core ideals I’m still holding onto.

I recall watching “All the President’s Men,” where Woodward discloses to Bernstein that he’s a Republican who voted for Nixon in 1968. Meanwhile, he’s working to bring down the president who declared “I am not a crook.”

There are actions that even diehards can’t defend and politicians who deserve scorn and have managed to earn disapproval. How much longer does the GOP have? This nation could be handed over to the Democrats by default unless a new political energy and philosophy finds its way to the party.

This old elephant has forgotten what made it great. The party needs to return to traditions and practices in politics that the citizens could respect. But in addition to this, old tricks don’t work on younger minds.

The Republicans need to remember the playbook and practices of lower taxes, decreased government wasteful spending and increased fiscal accountability, encouraging business and job growth, helping families and supporting public education, from kindergarten though college.

The GOP has new issues now, too. National security has been a Republican strength from the start and the continued war against terrorist extremists must not be forgotten, alongside our financial support to provide the military with the resources they need to win has to be provided. Our veterans should be a priority and their service not forgotten.

But this won’t happen overnight or be done in a vacuum. While I know that the conservative attack machine ramped up when Howard Dean declared the Republicans as the “white, Christian party,” he did have a point. To be frank, the conservatives need to break the mold and diversify. Every religion, ethnicity, age and gender needs to be recruited and welcomed. It can be done, but I doubt it’s been tried to a great extent.

It’s time to get that mandate back, but this time it will have to be earned, not freely given.

Kiyoshi Martinez is a senior in Communications and the Editor in Chief. Chuck Prochaska will be back next week. Martinez can be reached at [email protected]