California Forum

For Republicans, anger is not a winning strategy

Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNBC debate at the University of Colorado on Oct. 28.
Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNBC debate at the University of Colorado on Oct. 28. The Associated Press

Sen. Marco Rubio assessed his opponents during the recent GOP debate and declared that the Republicans have 10 great candidates for president. That was generous. But we do have several strong contenders who could win a national election and make an excellent commander in chief.

For Republicans this primary season, it’s not just about which candidate would make the best president. It’s also about the mood of the voters and which candidate can tap into how they’re feeling.

Many Republicans are mad and ready for a fight; whether it’s with Democrats, the political establishment or, like we saw during the CNBC debate, antagonistic members of the media. Any candidate who can adequately express their discontent seems to do well with those they hope to represent.

After seven years under President Barack Obama, many Republican voters have grown frustrated with the direction our nation has gone. They’ve witnessed the weakening of America, its decrease in stature on the world stage and political correctness rise to the level of absurdity. According to a recent New York Times/CBS Poll, just 12 percent of Republicans think the nation is headed in the right direction.

Obama has successfully alienated half of the nation and radicalized both parties. On the right, we’ve seen the proliferation of the tea party and a new breed of voters who are fed up with anything remotely resembling the status quo. On the left, socialism has actually become palatable.

The extremist wings of each party have grown considerably. And, in keeping with the theme of the current administration, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton recently said she counts Republicans among her “enemies.”

Many Republicans feel like it’s been too long since anyone has stood up for things they believe in and will cheer on almost anyone who can take their political opponents to task, even if it’s a bombastic reality star.

Republicans weary of weakness have gravitated to the biggest, loudest strongman and in doing so seem to ignore all his other, ahem, qualities because he gives supporters the thrill of a fight they feel is long overdue. However, as we saw in the most recent debate, Donald Trump now says he’s going to tone it down some.

We’ll see if he maintains his appeal without the bluster. And maybe it will bring a change in the mood and give rise to some of the more thoughtful, tested candidates.

While the thrill of the fight is fun, it’s not a good long-term strategy. Looking back at the biggest problems in our nation’s history, they have been solved by strong leaders working with both parties to unify, not divide the country.

We should be looking at candidates who present real policy solutions and a positive vision, not just cheap sound bites designed to appeal to our worst instincts with no real hope of fruition. It’s time for the vitriol and bluster to be replaced with a more venerable dialogue, worthy of someone fit to lead our nation the next four years.

With the first Republican primaries less than three months away, let’s hope the next debate includes moderators who are less concerned with being in the spotlight so we can see what policy issues actually differentiate the candidates.

And, while some are invoking recent polls to predict the winner of the Republican primaries, polls taken a year before Election Day are not always predictive of who the nominee will be. Just look at Howard Dean in 2004, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and Herman Cain in 2012. Each was ahead in the polls a year before Election Day, but ultimately none were on the ballot.

Ashley Snee Giovannettone, a former spokeswoman for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a consultant in Sacramento.