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Friday, March 03, 2006

An Unserious Proposal

The latest Presidential Approval poll from Fox News/Opinion Dynamics shows Pres. Bush at 39% Approve/54% Disapprove of the job he is doing. This is not so far off the findings of the recent CBS poll showing the president at 34% approval. Make what you will of the validity of either of these polls (the internals of the Fox poll are not yet available), there is one finding that does appear to be valid: support for the president among self-identified Republicans has eroded significantly. In the Fox poll, only 77% of Republicans approve of the job that Bush is doing, down from what were numbers routinely measured in the 90+% range.

This soft support for Republican politicians, among Republican voters, can be felt at almost every level of government, and one can sense that Republican candidates may suffer considerably at the polls come this November. So, what's the problem? The economy is great, housing values have boosted everyone's wealth, budget crises have been addressed with minimal tax hikes (Minnesota politicians, particularly the Republican Governor and GOP-controlled House, plugged over $5 billion in shortfalls without fundumentally changing the tax structure - a substantial achievement) - what's not for Republicans to like? Why do they seem so uninspired and disspirited?

There are many specific issues where Republicans are unsatisfied with their leaders, but it strikes me that the downbeat attitude arises from a general lack of fight in these leaders for the big ideas that truly animate their supporters.

Front and center, as we head into another session of the Minnesota legislature, is the quality and nature of education. The grassroots of the Republican party, as expressed by the party platform, is generally disgusted with the performance of public education in this state - the education establishment's appetite for funding is insatiable, their resistance to accountability is implacable, and their elitist attitude about what is best for our children is infuriating.

Surely, we've all heard by now of this idiot geography teacher in Colorado, Jay Bennish, and his anti-American, anti-Bush nutter ravings to his captive high school students. Michelle Malkin has the full roundup at her blog. Sure, the guy has been disciplined, but he's just one teacher - we know that this sort of thing goes on all the time in the government's schools. Rooting them out one at a time will never work - the way we provide for our children's education needs to change and there are plenty of big ideas out there to draw from.

Which begs the question - where are our Republican leaders? Why do they not speak out for these big, transformational ideas? The unsettling answer appears to be that they have made peace with the education establishment. Others might call it surrender.

It it any wonder that the morale of Republican voters is low? The public schools are expensive, wasteful, unaccountable, and at war with the culture we hold dear - the epitome of all that is wrong with the liberal/socialist idea, and yet our leaders have, for the most part, left the battlefield.

Well, not completely, I'll admit. There's always some poking around the edges of the problem, in an effort to demonstrate some interest. The latest is a proposal by Governor Pawlenty to require Minnesota school districts to spend at least 70 percent of their money in the classroom. At first blush, it seems like a good idea, squeezing money out of administration and into activities that are directly related to teaching. and, in fact, a bill requiring such has already advanced to the Minnesota House floor for consideration.

Let's not be so hasty in supporting this proposal, however. In an article at National Review Online, Jay P. Greene (author of Education Myths: What Special Interests Want You To Believe About Out Schools and Why It Isn't So) blasts this 70% solution as "seductively simple and horribly wrongheaded", a "fad" for which there exists no evidence that schools spending 65 cents on the dollar in the classroom have demonstrated higher student achievement.

Mr. Greene identifies two ways in which schools can meet the requirement. One is to cook the books, as government accouting is an oxymoron. The spending is loosely monitored and it would not be hard for the bureacracy to reclassify programs as "classroom education". The other is to simply flood the classrooms with more teachers, instructors and aides. And that just takes us right back to throwing money at the system.

So, rather than fight for real change, Republican leaders offer what are, in my opinion, gimmicks.

Gimmicks rather than real leadership on an issue of such deep, fundamental importance to Republican voters - it should come as no surprise that the animal spirits are depleted in those who witness their leaders in retreat from the fight.


Blogger G-man said...

Three points:

1.The real solution to education in Minnesota is good old fashioned freedom and competition. Give parents real freedom to send their kids to the school of their choice -- without paying double tuition. Competition will follow. Motivation to excel is a natural by-product of consumer comparison (as in shopping for a school). Government endorsed monopoly promotes complacency and lackluster performance (keep this in mind when the Hillary Health Care debate returns).

2.Regarding the polls, all to often such polls only demonstrate the effectiveness of the media in promoting their agenda. An honest look at Katrina will show that Louisiana dropped the ball. The governor refused to allow federal assistance when it was offered in the early stages. Yet, the media pounds the drumbeat that Katrina was President Bush's fault. Take a poll on Katrina and one is bound to find that most heard the media's message and blame the President.

3.Talk radio and blogs are getting the truth out. But, to reach the masses, there must be a dual effort. Those of us who are outraged need to let our elected leaders know. This gives them ammo. Conversely, elected leaders, specifically Republicans, need to get in front of that microphone – even if its only talk radio. The lesson for Republicans is that the campaign never ends. Winning the hearts and minds of the public is a full time job. We know the liberals in the media figured this out a long time ago.

3/03/2006 7:48 PM  
Blogger G-man said...

Another thought.

I support the President for he has fixed the economy, protected us from terrorists, liberated over 50 million oppressed people, and helped defend the Constitution by keeping legislators off the Supreme Court. While there are more issues to tackle, these conservative accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at.

Still, I wish the President (and more Republicans in Congress) did more with his Bully Pulpit to advance his agenda and slap down the lies levied by liberals in the media and the DNC.

While I support the President, I don't approve of his current management of the public debate.

I wonder how many Republicans in this poll responded the way they did because they, too, wish the President did more with the Bully Pulpit.

3/03/2006 9:18 PM  

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