I was having a conversation with a Republican friend of mine this past week. After a while our conversation invariably turned to the Senate contests this year and our predictions on how it would all turn out. Both of us were optimistic about the GOP chances and our feelings on the individual hot races. We agreed that we thought that the Republicans would pick up seats in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska. Then something happened that caught my attention. That friend, who is a wonderful person, referred to the Senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, with a disparaging remark about her personal character. When pressed he said he did not have any reason to characterize her that way aside from vague rumors. This got me wondering.
Why in the world would a respectable, well-thought-out person make such a judgment about someone he had never met? If I lived in Louisiana I would likely vote for one of her two opponents due to her voting record and her commitment to caucus with the Democrats. Yet I can’t make a judgment call on whether she is a good person, terrible person, or somewhere in between. If asked most people would probably admit the same. So why do so many partisans find themselves making declarations of personal antipathy towards any particular candidate? A range of reasons is likely responsible; everything from partisan polarization to lack of faith (earned or otherwise) in our government. We can theorize about these or other reasons, but I believe that it boils down to voter frustration. While sharing in our common frustration, however, I’d like to offer a few words of advice: Keep your eyes on the prize.
What do I mean? I mean that we as a people must constantly be reminding ourselves about what it is exactly we want out of our government and out of our elected officials this election cycle. My Republican friends reading this article might immediately jump to ‘Republican Senate control.’ I would urge you to look deeper. Why do you want Republicans to take control? This is an important question which likely has one answer ringing among conservative minds – To stop President Obama’s agenda. However even there I would urge you to press further on why you want President Obama’s political agenda halted.
For me the answer is simple: my main goal is not to make personal attacks on elected officials either Democrat or Republican, my main goal is not to gain a Senate majority, my main goal is not even to stop the Democrat’s legislative agenda. My main goal is to help secure economic prosperity through free markets, to ensure individual liberty, and to keep our country safe and secure. Electing a Republican Senate, opposing Democratic legislation, and all other political activity are all supplementary to that main goal. It then quickly becomes clear that personal attacks, political rants, and hyperbolic rhetoric stand as a barrier to those goals. So to all my Republican friends: We have a little over a month and a half to go, so take a moment refocus on what it is that you’d really like and think about the best ways to make it happen. In the likely event that Republicans retake the Senate, our work will only just be beginning.