Why I think Karen Handel might be on to something here…

Being out of the loop for the last couple of months, I tried in a limited fashion to keep up with things on the home front.  Being a consultant type guy that dreams of big things, that means continuing to be a consumer of information about the large Senate race taking place.  I’ve not minced any words on this – I’m a big Karen Handel supporter – so naturally I look at the race from that perspective, too.

In meeting a good friend last night, he asked me my thoughts on the Senate race.  One thing that I made a comment on was that I thought Handel’s method of campaigning was pretty interesting and effective.  She’s constantly asking for input from people, making them stakeholders in what the campaign does as a level unseen by other campaigns.  It may not seem like much to some folks, but I think asking for public input on a billboard is a brilliant campaign tactic.  People get engaged and the inquiry gives them some ownership of decision-making.  In an era where consultants and politicos like to banter back and forth about who has the most money, it’s often overlooked that successful candidates ask the most important question first – who best communicates with the most people?

I’m not on the inside of Handel’s campaign, but I certainly feel like it at some level.  These aren’t big decisions, and this one billboard doesn’t mean that all billboards, radio ads, television spots, mail pieces, etc. etc. are going to be “focus grouped.”  That said, this draws people in.  Besides the obvious benefits of getting an opportunity to make a fundraising pitch and identify volunteers, the campaign gets to actually involve people.  After all, it’s what the grassroots of the Republican Party has been clamoring for – involvement in the decision-making of Washington.

To be sure, Paul Broun’s got a legion of diehards (some of which follow him like a cult leader – not all, but some) and that doesn’t always mean a winning team is put together.  There is a far and wide difference between movement and progress.  Paul Broun can make hundreds of people swoon for his libertarian leanings, and that’s fine.  I haven’t once heard him ask people, “Here are some options, what do you think?”  Communication is as much listening as it is speaking.

That’s all anecodotal, and one billboard a victorious campaign does not make.  That said, it’s a subtle, but still very profound, way to build a network of support for a woman that is already a strong name in Georgia.

Immigration Reform and Elections…what to do, what to do….

So, the understandable kerfuffle over the immigration bill in the Senate is coming to a head after the vote produced a 68-32 Senate majority for the bill.  The Republican Senators that vote for it are already catching major flak for supporting the bill, none more than (former) Tea Party darling Marco Rubio.  Just looking at the petition site calling for his recall, a one “Michael Jackson” from Illinois can be quoted in the following deep thought:

Rubio is lying. He is not a natural born citizen. Being born on U.S. soil does not make a person natural born. His parents did not become U.S. naturalized citizens until Marco was nearly 4 yrs old. He is native born at best and because of that cannot be VP or POTUS. Rubio has sold America a bill of goods just like Barry Obama. Wake up America, Rubio is lying about S744 and amnesty, just like he is about Barry not being a U.S. natural born citizen and likely not even a U.S. citizen. What a bunch of politicians lining their pockets with filthy lucre, but denying the real American citizens the truth and helping destroy our liberties.

Nevertheless, the reform will pass the Senate and head to the House where it is essentially dead on arrival.  Boehner already walks a fine line with the raucous Republican caucus in the House, and he won’t overstep his authority by forcing this bill (or some modified version thereof) down the chamber’s throats with Democrat support and a few scattered Republican votes as happened in the Senate.  Unfortunately, we’re likely to see a piecemeal approach that focuses on “border security” first and then, oh yeah, deals with whole “amnesty” issue by forcing everyone back to Mexico.  When the time comes, I for one will be casting some serious blame on House Republicans for failing once again to find some balls and make some tough decisions on a very tough issue.  Our caucus will suffer as a result, and we are only creating more problems for ourselves by not coming up with a comprehensive solution to the problem while the iron is hot.

BoehnerPartisan politics is dominating this conversation, and it needs to stop.  I know why the Democrats want this issue at the forefront.  They’re horrible on the economy, and people know it.  The more they bring other issues to front, the more they are insulated from a real discussion about their ridiculously poor understanding of job creation. That said, it doesn’t remove the importance of finding legislation that addresses this issue.  Furthermore, the more Republicans pony up and provide a good solution now, the more time they have to drive the conversation back to budgets, deficit spending, and taxes that the Democrats are sure to lose on.

Which makes it so frustrating that Boehner is taking the politically safe stance.  This concept of “border security” is the ultimately manifestation of that.  For all the talk of needing more, no Republican has provided any substantive discussion of what that means.  After doubling the number of border agents, building a fence along the southern border, implementing important biometric technologies and others, and even requiring businesses to use e-Verify as a process of screening employees, Senate and House Republicans are still upset.  Why?

I’m okay with the stance that the border security measures aren’t enough, but that criticism obligates Republicans in opposition to provide a reasonable and viable alternative.  Senators like Ted Cruz, amazing in their rhetorical flourish as they are, seem unwilling to demonstrate the intellectual strength needed to add substance to style.  That’s sorely lacking right now, and it’s making our party to suffer as a result.  Those Republicans not supportive of the bill have little leverage in finding modifications on the final version.  More importantly, we lack any reasonable claim to make modifications in the House that are aimed at genuine solutions as opposed to partisan posturing.

Furthermore, we’re only going to hurt ourselves if we continue to harp on “amnesty.”  There’s still no viable alternative provided by the Republicans here.  Stonewalling reforms isn’t going to stop the de facto status many of these individuals receive now.  After all, education and health care is already provided regardless of immigration status.  Also, the Obama Administration is already providing DREAM Act relief to young immigrants who have a very reasonable and viable claim to being more American than they are anything else – all without Congressional approval.  If our response is to simply say “NOPE!  No more!” then we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Again, viable alternatives are warranted.

I’m firmly okay with denying citizenship to any individual who came to this country illegally, especially if they were of age to know they were breaking the law at the time.  But, they’re not going back unless we spend billions rounding them up in a fashion I’d personally feel terrified about (government men and guns is not something I want roaming around the country on a crusade).  Sending them “home” is unrealistic in the fashion so many conservatives wants, so we need to come up with a solution that allows them to earn a spot in this country and take responsibility for breaking the law.  That’s not called amnesty; that’s called a solution.  Stringent requirements?  Yes.  Citizenship?  No.  I think that’s a fair solution that fleshed out people can buy into.

There are real world impacts to this, too.  Love him or not, Karl Rove knows numbers (I’ve heard people say in 2004 he could cite complex registration and turnout statistics for every zip code in the country) and how they impact election prospects.  Citing examples from Georgia should paint a very real picture of the fact that Republicans cannot rely on a Southern strategy anymore.  Just in terms of elections, Republicans are setting themselves up to lose and belie this image of “inclusiveness” we’re trying to portray.  Regardless of whether or not someone is a native English speaker, speaking out of both sides of your mouth is readily apparent.  In fact, many immigrants – legal and illegal – came to this country precisely because their own politicians did that for too long.  They want to find a home where they don’t suffer because of political ineptitude and mismanagement.

Secondly, and more importantly, we distract ourselves the more Republicans drag this discussion of immigration reform along through a piecemeal approach.  I’d like to think that most people, especially those in government, can work on multiple problems at once.  However, Congress will not make the budget and deficit a real priority in until other pressing problems are solved.  For all the talk of the sequester, we’ve moved onto something else the Democrats can use as a distraction and taken the platform away from real reform.  Those that claim too much immigration suppresses wages and economic opportunity are remiss to acknowledge that poor monetary controls, runaway budgeting, and heavy regulation has a much larger negative impact on job creation.

The Know Nothing Party provided a sizeable minority in American politics in the mid-1800s.  Opposed to immigrants and Catholics (hello Irish!) who took jobs away from “real” Americans, they provide a good historical example of what Republicans face today.  Many of those immigrants provided a very important cultural foundation for our society, and their contributions can certainly be seen if you’ve ever been in Chicago or Savannah during St. Patrick’s Day.  It goes deeper than that, though.  Many of those families went on to sponsor successful small businesses and a pioneering spirit that helped build this country into the mighty powerhouse it is today.  Republicans would do well to remember those days and how it contributed to our own creation as a party.  Know Nothings became irrelevant in politics because our Republican Party formed and provided deeper solutions to the pressing problems of slavery.  We need remind ourselves of that and provide some tangible solutions to the issue of immigration.

C.H.A.R.G.E. Senate Forum

If you followed the thread from the GAGOP State Committee Meeting last Saturday, then I’m sure you’re eagerly awaiting a similarly exciting thread from the C.H.A.R.G.E. Senate Forum this Saturday.  Unfortunately, I cannot attend.  If there’s one thing more exciting than early season forums, it is spending time in the thriving metropolis of Casper, Wyoming.  Actually, my family has relocated back to Wyoming.  Just to make it exciting, they have moved into the remote confines of Casper.  A whole three hours north of my old stomping grounds in Cheyenne, I cannot pass up the opportunity to attend this year’s riveting Nicfest.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone has lived until they have seen The Fishtank Ensemble live.  But, I digress…

The Senate forum is not likely the first chance that we’ve had as party activists to meet the candidates for Senate.  If you attended last weekend’s Proud to be a Republican event, you likely had a chance to meet Paul Broun, Karen Handel, or Jack Kingston (who I all saw there).  Each one of them had a noticeable presence at the GAGOP State Convention.  I’m not gonna lie here, my personal allegiance lies with Karen Handel.  For me, there’s something to be said for an elected official that is accessible and remembers who I am.  I don’t doubt there will be some policy disagreements, but I’ll have those with any politician.  I do know I’ll have the opportunity to hear her thoughts, though, and for her to take the opportunity to hear mine at some level.  But, I digress more…

This forum is early in the season.  Given that, the candidates’ messages are still unrefined to a large degree.  I don’t see much of a problem, but that gives the organizers a great opportunity to really direct some conversation towards necessary topics, and more importantly, ask for some specific understanding from the candidates.  Too often, these forums become a “I agree with my opponent…” or a race to the right on almost everything.  No doubt some of the candidates are prepared to do just that as their strategy.

That’s a disservice to primary voters.  We don’t need to know what policies and principles the candidates agree on.  All five of them are conservative at some level.  Some more than others, but it’s like arguing over which color is more red – crimson or maroon.  Ultimately, that provides little insight.  We deserve to know substantive differences, and moderators of this forum will do well to avoid the easy questions and start focusing on serious disagreements when they start to appear.  This means less predetermined agenda and more flexibility, but it will do the attendees and subsequent second-handers well to know that conflict arose as opposed to an hour or two of nothing.

If it weren’t for the fact that my family really holds an elevated importance, I’d be eagerly attending this debate…er, I mean forum.  That said, I’ll happily attend the future debates…er, I mean forums.  Here’s hoping the wrinkles are ironed out, conflict is fostered, and we see some true difference come between the candidates.