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Politics: What a mess

Thoughts heading into the new year

Some random political musings as we embark on the new year …

I was talking last week with a congresswoman from Texas. A straight-shooter — on the range and at the podium — she aptly categorized voter sentiment toward Washington. “When I go back home to talk to folks in my district … they aren’t mad; they aren’t upset; they are purely indifferent — and that’s the worst. They gave up on us a long time ago.” As well they should …

Washington is bad — Republicans are worse. Mired in the mud (where they belong), they are a movement without a meaningful message. Consider that the average household income has gone down every year for the past five years. Real unemployment has been hovering around 15 percent for over three years. Upward mobility for folks at the bottom has been trending consistently downward. And still, it was Obama taking the stage yesterday to outline his vision for the next four years.

Why? Republicans talk policy; Obama talks to PEOPLE. He talks about fairness. He pits rich against poor. And, frankly, facts don’t matter in the face of eloquently crafted platitudes. A majority of voters think Obama cares about the problems “facing people like them.” If Republicans can’t crack that code, soon, the 2014 midterm will resemble the 2006 midterm.

It’s amazing — taxes went up a few weeks ago in the debt “deal.” Conservative Republicans think the party caved in the deal; moderate Republicans think the party obstructed in the deal. Man, Obama played it masterfully.

There is a great Nissan ad on the air — where the horn honks every time its owner goes just a little too far. For example, when he attempts to bypass the handshake on a first date and go in for the open-mouth kiss, the horn honks. Every Republican needs a Nissan. You said WHAT about rape? HONK. You want to do WHAT to “illegals” in this country? HONK. You think Obama was born WHERE? Honk. Did you just say “takers?” HONK. One prominent GOP consultant put it best recently when he said in essence, “You are not connecting with mainstream Americans if Rush Limbaugh is celebrating your sound bites on his show.”

On a brighter note, Michigan is a state on the move — with Republicans leading the way. Unemployment is declining. Economic opportunity is rising. Most recently, government unions picked a fight they were warned not to wage. They lost. Big. Folks are coming around to the common-sense conclusion that people should be able to join a company without being forced to join that company’s union. Governors like Rick Snyder are demonstrating the fortitude to stand up to big union bosses — teachers unions, for example — who are more interested in standing up for bad teachers than good students.

If Republicans are looking for a bright spot, don’t look to Washington, look to some of these state capitals across the country.

I have been surrounded by politicians and self-important consultants and advisers the past few days — prominent folks at the national and state level. It reinforced the old truism that the best-dressed folks are seldom the most influential or important. Want to know who is wielding the power — the guy who truly has the ear of the leader pulling the levers? Look for the slob, the guy wearing tattered Dockers with an untucked shirt covering a protruding gut. Odds are he has the last word of the day.

Time for the NRA to adapt or fade away. The question is this: should ANYONE be able to buy a gun from ANYONE at ANYTIME … without, at the very least, a background check? The answer is NO. Period. The NRA just doesn’t get it …

I wish Twitter would disappear — along with Facebook. I refuse to indulge in either. But I was told of a “tweet” a buddy of mine sent prior to the Golden Globes. “I am tired of pretending I want to go see ‘Lincoln.’” Amen.

Ben Clarke spent 10 years working as a speech writer and political consultant in Washington, D.C. He is now based back in his hometown of Greenfield, where he works for a global political, corporate and entertainment communications firm. You can comment on a piece by sending an email to benclarkeopinion@gmail.com.

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