Tis the season for getting glossy, 4-color political circulars. I've gotten more than my share from all the local candidates and some special interest groups, but the one which caught my eye today came from the Texas GOP, outlining in black and white what they think are the best reasons I should vote for their candidates as a group.
Under the heading "Decide Whose Values Guide Texas" this neat, concise, and clearly presented ad lays out five 'values' issues with definitive boxes which show NO for the Democrats and YES for the Republicans. Then it wraps up with "The Choice is Clear, On Tuesday, Nov. 7th, Vote Republican." It's bold, effective, and to the point. Clearly they hired a good marketing firm to put it together. Too bad the actual content was selected by a committee of blue-haired old ladies and congenital idiots.
Here are the five issues which they think people are going to be excited to hear the GOP supports and the Democrats don't.
Parental Notification for a minor daughter's abortion. First off, plenty of Democrats support parental notification in one form or another. Second, it's an issue so complicated and morally ambiguous that taking a firm stand on it is politically untennable. Why lead off with something about which there are so many questions and so many potential pitfalls?
The Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage between a man and a woman. Presumably chosen because they want to make sure all Republicans are seen as small-minded homophobes who think a religious sacrement like marriage ought to be enshrined in state law in obvious violation of the idea of separation of church and state. President Bush and many prominent Republicans support civil unions with full legal equivalency to marriage for gay couples.
Laci Peterson's Law, which protects pregnant women from violence. First off, no law protects people from violence. This and other laws like it merely make sure violent offenders are suitably punished. Second, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act had widespread support in both parties, including from some Texas Democrats in Congress. It also passed overwhelmingly three years ago and was signed into law by the President. So exactly what are candidates from either party in this election going to have to do with it? It's active law. This horse has already left the gate.
A ban on burning the American flag. The stupidity of hanging your hat on this issue can't be overstated. It's mindless boosterism which rapes the Constitution and makes a piece of cloth more important than the rights of American citizens. Republicans ought to be first in line to oppose this silliness, and the last time it was voted on, several Texas Republican lawmakers voted against it. What's more, the latest version of the bill is authored and sponsored by Democrats, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Boxer in the Senate, so suggesting Democrats oppose it is ridiculous.
Judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution. With the second and fourth issues they've already proven they don't give a rat's ass about the Constitution, so why should we take this seriously? It does sound good, but GOP appointees were responsible for the obscenity that is the Kelo decision in the Supreme Court, so my confidence in their ability to read and understand the Constitution isn't so high. The Kelo decision is still a major sore point with the public and reminding them of how GOP judges have failed them seems like a really bad idea.
So the issues they chose to highlight are pretty poor choices. Some of them they shouldn't be supporting in the first place, while others have true bipartisan support. They're not exactly staking out firm ground to run on. I guess that would be okay if the GOP didn't have anything better to campaign on. The problem is there are huge, important issues, on which Republicans have powerful and persuasive positions. Why are none of them mentioned. In particular, what happened to:
Controlling our borders and stopping illegal immigration. This is an obvious winner for the GOP. They just passed the border fence bill. Texas is a border state. Republicans have an established position of strength in opposition to illegal immigration, and all the major advocates of immigration control are Republicans. Plus, for those with a more moderate perspective on the issue, President Bush supports a guest worker program in addition to border enforcement. This ought to be a slam dunk, obvious winner. Why isn't it on the list?
Keeping taxes low for economic prosperity. Another unqualified winner. Everyone hates taxes. The economy has recovered largely as a result of GOP tax cuts. Democrats want to do away with tax cuts with an instant hit of over $2000 a year for the average tax payer and some of them are even campaigning on raising taxes. This is another unbeatable issue. It ought to be first on the list. Where is it?
Protecting America from terrorism. Despite the controversies surrounding the Iraq war, last week's Newsweek poll still shows the public still has confidence in Republicans dealing more effectively with the War on Terror than Democrats. Why not take advantage of this issue? Again, it seems like a no-brainer. Where is it in this ad?
These three issues are just the most obvious. There are plenty of other old standards and relatively uncontroversial issues they could run on. There'd be more if the Texas GOP hadn't come down on the wrong side of so many issues at the urging of Governor Rick Perry. But still, whatever happened to gun rights, school choice, and a sound energy policy? They could even take a clear position on protecting eminent domain here to counter the negative impression of the Kelo ruling.
Anyone with a bit of sense ought to be able to rewrite this flyer to make the GOP and its canididates more attractive than the Democrat alternative. Keep it to five issues, and make them Immigration, Tax Cuts, Terrorism, Property Rights, and School Choice. You'd have voters come marching to the polls enthusiastically. You'd be giving them something worth standing up and fighting for.
The flyer is lukewarm and weak and fails utterly if its mission is to inspire the base to turn out. It's even more disastrous if it's supposed to attract independents or crossover voters who are more than likely going to be repelled by the Gay Marriage and Flag Burning issues. If this is the best the GOP can do in Texas, and it's typical of their efforts nationwide, then candidates ought to be demanding more competent support from the party, and they certainly shouldn't be surprised if they lose control of Congress next week. A party this weak and directionless deserves to be hammered by the Democrats. Maybe that will make the hacks in charge wake up and figure out what the party's real values and priorities ought to be.