You might call the Republicans’ recent efforts related to the federal government shutdown and their battle with the Democrats over the debt ceiling as “strategic incompetence.”
Strategic incompetence is the act of appearing to not know what you are doing, all the while, knowing exactly what you want to accomplish by pretending to be incompetent.
My friend Roy engages in strategic incompetence from time to time. For example, after his wife had their son, Roy decided he didn’t like hanging diapers. So he would pretend to be incompetent by fumbling with the diapers, never getting the child clean enough, and otherwise incorrectly changing the diaper and upsetting the baby. In the end, his wife believed Roy was not competent to change the diapers, and she told him he didn’t have to do it anymore — which is exactly what Roy wanted.
By shutting the government down over the train wreck that is known as Obamacare and having threatened to not increase the debt ceiling, the Republicans appeared — just as Roy appeared in the eyes of his lovely wife — to be incompetent in the eyes of voters.
The strategic part of the GOP’s shutdown and debt ceiling plan was to show the American public that our government’s fiscal house needs to be put in order before the system collapses from its own weight. The Republicans’ dichotomy was they had to look incompetent to demonstrate the need for order by creating disorder.
The Republicans clearly lost the PR battle over the shutdown and the debt ceiling limit extension. Unfortunately for the GOP, the spiraling federal debt as an issue of concern appears lost on most people. It’s significance is quite simple really: The money we’ve borrowed will have to be paid back, and it’s going to be painful.
For the GOP, they lost the battle because there is no easy way to explain the importance of getting the debt under control in a 10-second sound bite on cable news while the hyperbole of the Democrats and the mainstream media (“they’re denying children with cancer their treatments, and grandmas their Social Security checks”) gets played ad nauseum.
From Obamacare, to other entitlement programs, to all of the pork-barrel spending across the country — things such as river walks, bike trails and studies on the mating habits of red-headed woodpeckers — these are the goodies that politicians deliver to their constituents so the politicians can get reelected; meanwhile, our kids get stuck with the bills.
Eventually the rubber will hit the road and the bills will come due. Hopefully, Americans will wake up and realize what we have done to our nation’s economy and the next generation.
The question is, will it be too late?
If we had acted now — if we had followed through with the Republicans’ path of strategic incompetence by shutting the government down over Obamacare, and not extending the debt ceiling (again) — we might have a chance at getting our country out of the mess it’s in. As it stands, all the GOP has accomplished is to annoy voters and kick the proverbial can down the road for a few more months. Although seriously addressing the debt and spending will mean we take some short-term stings, those aches will be nothing like the pain that we will face if we continue to punt the ball down the field every time our backs are pinned against our own goal line, i.e. whenever the debt limit approaches.
At some point, a real leader needs to stand up and challenge the team to spread out and go long for a Hail Mary pass in the end zone. That may not be the best way to win a game, but given what we are facing, it really wasn’t such an incompetent move the Republicans were advocating. At least with Roy and the Republicans, the incompetence is strategic. The Democrats’ strategy of ignoring the problem is just irresponsible.
What Roy has in common with the Democrats is, they are both merely attempting to avoid a smelly situation. But one way or the other, the diaper still needs to be changed.
Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and political analyst for Bay News 9. Email him at: [email protected]