[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/10/republican.party.poll/art.gop3.gi.jpg caption="A new poll indicates there is no clear leader of the Republican Party."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
There is an old story about a man who winds up accidentally adrift in a hot air balloon and as he passes over a field, he frantically yells to the farmer below.
“How far am I from New York?” “I have no idea,” the farmer says. “How about Philadelphia?” “Not a clue.” “You dumb hick. Don’t you know anything?” the balloonist bellows. “Well,” the farmer replies, “I know I’m not lost.”
That pretty much sums up the relationship between the Republican and Democratic Parties right now. One group may not be sure which direction it is heading, especially on dicey issues like health care reform, but the other is pretty much completely adrift.
A new poll this week told us, as polls often do, what we already know: The Republican Party is a mess. USA Today/Gallup found that almost half of Republicans and even Independents who lean right, have no idea who their captain is, which way they are heading, or where they might find a map. Their ship of state is currently the Bounty, and their Mel Gibson is starting to sweat and listen to the grumblers.
I’ve spent a good bit of time questioning Republican strategists about their situation in recent months. (I’ve tried to talk to Democrats about it too, btw, but I often have trouble understanding them with the way they start dancing around and whistling when I bring up the GOP’s troubles.) And the Repubs, almost to a soul, agree on three things.
First, they need a leader, and that weird Project Runway of Old White Guys we are watching will not produce one. Limbaugh. Gingrich. Cheney. The most active strategists all say stick a fork in them – they’re done. Sarah Palin is an interesting act, they say, but a headliner? They insist the party needs new, young faces who can blow away the Old Guard, like Barack Obama did for the Democrats
Second, they need a new vision. The civil war between those who want to restore their conservative roots and those who want to forge a new pact with America is just the opening skirmish. Everything from minority outreach to fiscal policies to the RNC’s weekend softball lineup is all on the workbench.
And third, they need time. Time to get used to climbing uphill again instead of sitting on the top. Time to adapt to all these new notions of what being a Republican might mean. And time for the opposition to make mistakes.
After all, just eight years ago America had a name for members of a party in disarray with no clear dreams, plans or hopes for the future. Back then, we called them Democrats.
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