The Right Opinion

It's Pirate Time for the GOP

The party needs to be unpredictable and bold -- and grab some of Obama's issues.

By Peggy Noonan · Jan. 12, 2013

It's official. Congress is now less popular than cockroaches and colonoscopies, though more popular than the ebola virus and gonorrhea. Really. The numbers came, this week, from a Public Policy Polling survey. The House and Senate have an approval rating of 9%.

GOP governors are the party's most esteemed leaders, but they're not in Washington. The Republican voice and presence in our national debates comes from its members on the Hill. They're the ones America sees on the news every day, which is unfortunate because they are, largely, deal makers, legislators and even plain speakers who are not necessarily gifted explainers or thinkers.

They are up against the Democratic voice and presence. That would be President Obama (approval rating in the low to mid 50s) and his White House. He is just off a major electoral win, commands the national mic, is about to be celebrated at a second swearing-in, and will soon give a nationally covered inaugural address. Also he just won on the fiscal cliff, for now. We'll see the blowback. Payroll taxes have just gone up, ObamaCare is yet to be fully instituted and will be costly, things are about to get more expensive for everybody. But at the moment he's king.

And what the Republican Party has each day going up against him – presenting the party's case, explaining its thinking – is a disparate and fractious lot of varying talent who, again, are connected to an institution less popular than cockroaches.

It doesn't, at the moment, seem a fair fight.

Normally we see Republican congressmen and senators in a gaggle, and their message always seems to get lost. They're usually talking about pieces of things, some part of a bill, or an amendment. Little they say seems to cohere, or to connect with a higher purpose, intent or meaning. What they say doesn't amount to a cacophony – it's not that lively. Their message always seems muted and blurred.

Congressional Republicans haven't been able to come up with an immediate and overarching goal or a strategy to achieve it. Many feel as if they're always in the dark, unclear on what the leadership is thinking or about to do.

But a goal and strategy are needed. Without them, everything will seem ad hoc, provisional, formless, meaningless. The public will see it that way, especially in comparison to the president, who seems these days to have a surer sense of what he's about, and a greater confidence that you've finally twigged on to it, too.

So here's an idea for Republicans in Congress. It has to do in part with policy, in part with attitude and approach.

They should starkly assess their position. It isn't good. They just lost an election, they're up against the wall, they have to figure out how to survive and thrive as a party that stands for something, while attempting each day to do the work that needs doing for a country in trouble. The challenges are huge, the odds long.

They can sit back and be depressed and whine. Or they can decide: It's pirate time.

And really, it is.

Now is the time to fight and be fearless, to be surprising, to break out of lockstep, to be the one thing Republicans aren't supposed to be, and that is interesting.

Now's the time to put a dagger 'tween their teeth, wave a sword, grab a rope and swing aboard the enemy's galleon. Take the president's issues, steal them – they never belonged to him, they're yours!

In political terms this means: Reorient yourselves. Declare for Main Street over Wall Street, stand for the little guy against the big interests. And move. Don't wait for the bill, declare the sentiments of your corner.

Really, it's pirate time.

Examples of what might be done:

If you are conservative you are skeptical of concentrated power. You know the bullying and bossism it can lead to. Republicans should go to the populist right on the issue of bank breakup. Too big to fail is too big to continue. The megabanks have too much power in Washington and too much weight within the financial system. People think the GOP is for the bankers. The GOP should upend this assumption. In this case good policy is good politics.

If you are a conservative you're supposed to be for just treatment of the individual over the demands of concentrated elites. Every individual in America making $400,000 a year or more just got a tax hike that was a blow to the gut. Regular working people are seeing their payroll deductions increase. But private-equity partners who make billions enjoy more favorable tax treatment. Their income is treated for tax purposes as a capital gain, so they're taxed at far lower rates. This is called the carried interest exemption, and everybody knows it's a big con.

The Republican Party should come out against it in a big way. Let the real rich pay the same percentage the not-actually-rich-but-formally-declared-rich are paying. If the Republicans did this they'd actually be joining the winning side, because carried interest will not survive the new era. If congressional Republicans care about their party they'll want it to get credit for fairness, as opposed to the usual blame for being lackeys of the rich.

Republicans make too much of order and discipline. Sometimes a little anarchy is a good thing, a little disorder a sign of creativity and independence of thought. If there are voices within the GOP that are for some part or parts of gun reform it would be good for them – and for the party – to come forward now. I love the Second Amendment and I'm not kidding, but I have to say tens of millions of assault weapons in the hands of gangbangers and unstable young men couldn't be what the Founders had in mind.

We need a little moderation here, a little give.

Finally, Republicans should shock everyone, including themselves, by pushing for immigration reform – now. Don't wait for the president, do it yourselves, come forward individually or in groups with the argument for legalization of who lives here now. Such bills should include border control and pathways for citizenship, but – and most important – they shouldn't seem punitive or grudging and involve fines and lines and new ways to sue employers. The world has changed. Ease up now. In the past 10 years immigrants, legal and illegal, have fought our wars. We need to hurry in those who are trying to bring gifts we need into the USA. Whoever comes here learns to love our crazy country, or at least appreciate it. If we do a better job of teaching them why the goodness we have even exists, we will do OK.

The point here is to have the GOP lead in terms of good policy. But it's also important for the Republicans to show the variety, disagreement and alive-ness that exists within the party. It is not some grim monolith, some thought-free zone, or was not meant to be. It's not bad to be unpredictable. Living things are.

Members should loosen up, speak for their corner, put together caucuses, go forward, move. Go on TV, dagger and sword, and make your case.

Really: It's pirate time.

View all comments


Patriot LE in The People's Republik of MD said:

Sorry, Peggy, but your incessant whining and pseudo-intellectual discourse that touts the supposed need to 'moderate' our conservative views just serves to illustrate that it is you who is out-of-touch with real conservatives and what really constitutes "good policy" for the people of this country.

One needs look no further than your comments on gun control to realize that you are little more than a Democrat-lite, the kind of person whose only true values have the consistency of gelatin, values that 'evolve' over time to meet the supposed new order of things.

The Founders framed the Constitution in a rigid fashion, precisely for the purpose of preventing the type of tyranny under which the current Occupier-in-Chief is attempting to subject us.

And to all the liberal loons out there, rich, poor, and everything in between: How are those lighter paychecks feeling these days? If someone hasn't beaten me to it already, allow me to be the first to say, "I told you so..."

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 2:29 AM

Edward Fultz in Angola, Ind. said:

With the possible exception of the Tea Party people in the repblican party the rest are democrats that have been white washed to look like good guys .

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:58 AM

Edward Fultz in Angola, Ind. said:

The Replubican party is run by democrats that have been white washed to look like the good guys. The only hope for this country is the "Tea Party"

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 7:02 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Sorry Pegs---I'm stayin' bold, brassy, and Tea Party---Forever! We cannot afford our oversized Executive Branch, with 15 mega offices. I'm a garden grower and a govmint shrinker, get used to it!! Semper Paratus!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 7:06 AM

charlie in PA said:

You sound like a cheerleader at the Alamo. The election settled it; the forces of "give me stuff" will win until there is no more stuff to give. Your big ideas are such cliches---"megabanks have too much power in Washington". No, Washington has too much power in Washington!!!!! As long as that's the case, the use of that power will always be for sale.

"Tax the super rich". That's just about finding new minisources of money to fund megaspending programs the country can't afford.

"Show variety and disagreement". That plays into the Democrats' divide and conquer strategy. "Go on TV"--that's laughable. Their TV is Fox News; the rest of the media are Oblahblah land.

But, I know , you're a columnist and have to write something..

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:40 AM

John Chinn in Warsaw,Va replied:

I think you meant a Mexican Cheerleader. Good line Charlie. And right on target you are.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

I cannot believe this deluded woman actually said that legal and illegal aliens have fought our wars for us. What a bunch of liberal crap she is spouting. If the Republicans follow her reasoning them they should just change parties and become Demorats.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:04 AM

charlie in PA said:

PS Ms Noonan. If you want to opine on how the Republicans can win elections, you might take a look at this piece:

However, you'll have difficulty translating it into a winning strategy for them because they aren't inclined to stoop to that level of pandering. Even if they were, the Democrats have permanently staked out the "we'll give you stuff" ground.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 12:31 PM

BJ in St. Cloud, MN said:

The GOP has sold us out. Period. We did not get to where we are because they "represented" us. They are not Conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. I personally do not want to be connected to the people that voted against America by voting for obama. They voted for him because they are ignorant, stupid, evil, or just easily impressed and not interested in truth, they had their hands out or they think they know what's best for us all. The votes cast for obama were cast by:
elitists who think they are worthy of freedom while the rest of us aren't accept when they control it.
blacks because he's part black
welfare recipients
union members
environmental freaks (elitists)
marxists, commies
The "American" values propagated by the above groups are;
LATE term PARTIAL birth abortion
homosexual marriage
homosexuals openly serving in the military
anti gun
bigger govt
higher taxes
unfair higher taxes on those of us that actually contribute to the economy
America haters who don't understand there would be little freedom anywhere on the planet were it not for America.
Stop me when I get to a real American value please.
When our "representatives" swore their oaths they had their fingers crossed because I can't think of even ONE that will go to the wire and risk blood and fortune for us. It's time we run them all off. When there are afraid of us we will have our freedom b ack.
God Help Us


Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 1:48 PM

John Chinn in Warsaw,Va replied:

Good job , BJ. I think you hit all the spots that the GOP and Dear Pablum Mouth Peggy, need to straighten them up. If they would or perhaps it is could.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA said:

I didn't have to read your article to know it was full of crap. I just went to the comments and sure enough verified your brain washing is complete. I won't waste my time on clicking into anything you have said. The only question is why the PP would even feature you as one of their columnist?

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

Hey Peggy!

My wife came here legally - from Scotland - worked for 10 years waiting for green card. Spent over $10,000 (without lawyers) in fees and travel every year to Atlanta to get her papers stamped ( 1 minute process after standing in line for 6 hours with fresh-off-the boat non-english speaking new applicants who each took hours to process) for another year.

Then they decide that they need to organize application papers through a company in Ohio ( another fee) that happens to be in district with a helpful Senator. Sorry Peggy - we have done it the right way - so can your immigrant friends. There is a process - it takes time - but there are thousands in line ahead of your friends.

Washington is broken - and the reason it matters is because they have all our money - which they have stolen and wasted on their friends.

If Washington did not have all our money it would not matter. We must starve the beast. Return to the Union of States, as outlined in the Constitution. Sorry Peggy, again it looks like you have grabbed Obama's issues. Are you writing speeches for him now?

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:05 PM

John Chinn in Warsaw,Va replied:

Amen to that and your wife, Mr Timms

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:22 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe,GA said:

As to the 2nd Amendment, they May come for my weapons, But I insist they confiscate my ammo first.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:42 PM

John Chinn in Warsaw,Va said:

Moderation is why we have our backs to the wall. The Democrats, Liberals, the Left, whatever, has set the rule: We can say anything about Conservatives with no repercussions. BUT! Conservatives can't say the same thing or even respond in kind. And, the Republican Party has accepted that willingly. We , as a Nation, Liberal or Conservative have accepted the notion that we must not say anything disparaging about Muslims . There are so called [I call them bogus] Conservative sites that edit out references that they deem offensive to Muslims. So. For Miss Peggy and anyone else with a pablum mouth bent, listen up. We have almost lost our Nation. We WILL loose it unless we get the yellow streak out of our backs. I leave all with a Quote from an American Hero and legend by the name of Chesty Puller. "You don't send choir Boys to break up a Bar Room Brawl."

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

John, I'm convinced that some of our RINO choirboys, ie, Bohener, McCain, and McConnel have been castrated and that is why they talk like Demorat Lites.

Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Jim Billingsley in Smithville, IN said:

Judging by the comments I've read - I am most assured that the heartbeat of liberty is alive and well. My gosh, we just need to band together and get organized. I pray the Tea Party becomes an actual party, because there are just too many republicans like Ms. Noonan who won't stand for anything, who won't draw a line in the sand and boldly challenge the leftist weenies: "Cross that line and you'll forever regret that you were ever born!!!"

Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:08 PM

Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA replied:

Aaron Tippin,
"You have got to stand for something or you will fall for anything you’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string never compromise what is right"

Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Robin in Kentucky said:

Pirates need to swing on board and scuttle the USS D.C. and hoist Old Glory back on the USS U.S.A.

Thirteen staves without a hoop does not a barrel make, but neither can Fifty staves be held together with a noose.

Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 10:49 AM

John in OKC, OK said:

"I love the Second Amendment and I'm not kidding, but I have to say tens of millions of assault weapons in the hands of gangbangers and unstable young men couldn't be what the Founders had in mind."

Silly Peggy, us bitter clingers are the only ones actually vote for R, just hoping for a reasonably effective roadblock to the Bummers. Betray us and they'll die a quick death, not to mention find themselves eventually hanging from a lamppost as fitting for traitors. At least the left has beliefs, misguided as they are, you madame have none....

Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 10:21 PM