While Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean garners headlines for his hateful anti-Repubilican rhetoric in his cross-country travels, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman has been getting little in attention in the national media for his trips across the country. According to USA Today, Mr. Mehlman “is courting black and Hispanic voters on a regular basis. . . . he has visited Latino neighborhoods and historically black campuses.”
In contrast his Democratic counterpart, Mr. Mehlman offers a positive vision of his party, recently speaking to an audience at Orange County’s Lincoln Juarez Opportunity Center, saying that the GOP’s “encouragement of home and business ownership, personal accountability and hard work vs. social service handouts are the American values that appeal to many Hispanics.” And while the RNC chair is putting forward a positive vision of his party, Howard Dean continues to badmouth his opponents, recently telling a Democratic audience in Washington, D.C. that Republicans could wait in line eight hours to vote because “Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives.”
And this is just the latest of the Democratic chairman’s mudslinging. He has said he hates “the Republicans and everything they stand for” and accused us of being “mean.” Someone seems to be projecting here.
To be sure, there has always been mean-spirited rhetoric in American politics. Yet, most party chairmen have eschewed such language to focus on party building. They know that nasty rhetoric alone is not enough to win elections. Mr. Dean may well have a positive vision of what Democrats stand for, but his nasty rhetoric drowns out any more uplifting proposals.
One reason the GOP has continued to win elections since President Bush’s narrow victory in 2000 has been that it has focused on building the party and putting forward a positive vision for our nation’s future. By contrast, the Democrats, still smarting from the contested election of 2000, appear primarily as bitter partisans, more concerned with attacking or obstructing President Bush and the GOP than in promoting an agenda for action.
My party lost ground in the 1998 elections because its leaders chose to run against President Clinton, thinking the American people would reward Republicans for attacking that Democrat’s dishonesty and deceit. Republicans seemed to think that they could win merely by going negative much as Democrats had in 1974, just months after President Nixon resigned. They didn’t see that times had changed — and that the crimes were different. The economy was doing better in the late 1990s than it was in the mid-1970s. And the American position in the world appeared stronger than it had a quarter-century earlier.
Americans may not have trusted Bill Clinton, but they weren’t prepared to reject his party merely because of his dishonesty. Importantly, they weren’t going to reward the GOP for attacking him without offering a positive vision. George W. Bush learned from Republican defeats in 1998. Howard Dean, however, still seems to be smarting from his party’s loss in the past three biennial national election cycles.
We Republicans should hope he continues his mudslinging antics. For while the president’s approval ratings may not be as strong as we would like them to be, at least Americans see him promoting a number of reforms to improve our nation. They’re not going to reject his party in favor of one which offers little but bile and bitterness.
As long as Ken Mehlman keeps his focus on building the party and continues to offer a positive vision of the Republican agenda and Dean continues his campaign of name-calling, our party can expect to do ever better than it has in the past. And Dean’s Democrats will become even angrier as they continue to lose ground with the American people.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com