I don’t blame Joni Ernst for her State Of The Union Response.
She has handlers, you see—or rather, mishandlers. Exhibiting few skills and less vision, these insiders still network their way up GOP ladders. They’re bigtime now. They measure focus group data. They write speeches for rising GOP stars, coaching their victims in “connecting” with voters. Hence, we receive an avalanche of sappy stories resembling narration for home movies:
“Oh, and this is me at camp…not unlike the wonderful camps enjoyed by children across America…”
“This is me opening my corner store…not unlike stores you’d see on corners across America…yes, America has its share of corners, dating back to the first settlers…”
“This is me working on a farm…not unlike many farms worked by…well, some people still…look, this is me castrating a hog!...sorry, too much detail…but it reminds me of how America is a place for opportunity, where even a country girl like me can dream big! Little did I know that one day…”
Augh! Enough! Quick, all single guys, picture the following: Taylor Swift approaches you in a bar and says you’re the sexiest man alive—and she’s feeling vulnerable right now—and a bit drunk. But then, Taylor tries to “connect,” reciting excerpts from Joni Ernst’s speech. Question: Do you still want her?
Yes, only Joni’s mishandlers could destroy Taylor Swift.
Have you ever seen those wooden nutcrackers that look like they should guard Buckingham Palace? Just take a moment to imagine one resembling Joni Ernst, with her bottom jaw sliding up and down as she—what, you already have it? Wow, that was quick. Anyway, that’s how much expression Ernst was permitted throughout her focus group-driven, mishandler-written SOTU response. It was that bad.
The next morning, I tried forgetting by running on a treadmill at the gym. It helped. Hanging before me were several TV’s, the closest displaying HGTV home renewal shows—you know, the kind where happy people take sledge hammers to walls. One commercial advertised Ellen Degeneres’s New Show, “Ellen’s Design Challenge.” That amused me. For a moment, I considered mocking the liberal icon, but then I envisioned Harry Reid saying, “If I had a son, he’d look just like Ellen.”
“Harry’s right,” I thought. “She’s a dead ringer. I’ll lay off.”
Anyway, try as I might, I couldn’t shake my Joni rage. Some show called “Property Brothers” was on, and I started imagining these two dashing fellows taking saws and sledge hammers to Joni’s speech. A smile crossed my face. Chained to a railing, Joni’s mishandlers looked on as Drew and Jonathan laughed maniacally, demolishing Formica personal stories and tearing up shag references to America’s shared values—values Americans haven’t agreed upon for decades. Alas, the more they shredded, the more they found to shred, so eventually Drew and Jonathan signed an insurance policy and started pouring gasoline. Racing out the door as flames ignited a gas line, the two brothers leapt joyfully, just ahead of the exploding timber.
“Yahahahahaha!!!!!!” And just like that, I had a section of the gym to myself.
Having failed to repress my Ernst memories, I began pondering solutions. What could be done? After all, this was no isolated meltdown. Bobby Jindal went through it; and last night’s Tea Party response was just as awful. Rather than fix messaging, current GOP divisions have only created more ladders to be climbed by more mishandlers—so blaming “Establishment Insiders” wasn’t the answer.
Then I remembered something; a “Basic Evangelism” class I took in Seminary. This ran a full semester, with several books, lots of lectures, and plenty of writing assignments. There were experts galore. At the final session, I stood up in the back and posed a tough question:
“Excuse me, but if we’re asking people to follow a 2100-year-old martyr while limiting their moral choices (a message I support, by the way), shouldn’t we, at some point, tell them why? Do you realize that during this entire semester, we haven’t spent one minute learning how to show Jesus is actually true? Not one sentence. Nothing. It’s all been personal technique and community strategies. Isn’t it the truth that sets people free, not our relational tactics?”
Needless to say, I wasn’t long for that seminary.
But my words apply for Conservatives today. After all, what is our opponent’s message? That’s easy: Wealth Redistribution. Then, rather than forcing people to endure home movies, shouldn’t we explain why wealth redistribution is a bad thing? For goodness sakes, our opponent’s entire strategy hinges on stealing for people and making them feel good about it, so shouldn’t we show why this will harm them, and why they should feel bad about it? Stop just connecting, GOP, and start teaching!
Yes, there are more issues we can mention. There’s illegal immigration, school choice, late-term abortion, terrorists, oil and gas waiting to be drilled on public lands, etc.—and on those issues, most Americans agree with us. That’s why Obama runs to wealth redistribution in all its forms, from healthcare to free college to a higher minimum wage. It’s all he has. So, what if Joni Ernst gave a friendly talk on why redistribution doesn’t work, and why opportunity does? Wouldn’t she sound smarter? Wouldn’t people be interested in a counterpoint to Obama’s only point?
And while she’s at it, what if Ernst described how spreading wealth can only be done at the expense of liberty? And what if she described liberty’s benefits, rather than just assuming everyone gets it?
“From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.” This Marxist ideal collapses nations from Russia to South America, and our president has hitched his wagon to it. Avoiding this topic because redistribution initially feels good—is crazy. It’s like Christians avoiding talk of sin because sin initially feels good. We need to start answering why, as in, “Why opportunity? Why not rob the few for the many? Why vote for us? Why not them?” Let’s offer reason, as only reason can help people look beyond what they initially feel. Let me say that again: Only reason can help people look beyond what they initially feel. Yes, inspirational stories are good too, but these should accent reason, not replace it.
Message to all GOP (and Tea Party) mishandlers: I don’t care how you networked your way up the ladder. If these reason-free home movies are all you have, then please quit your jobs. I mean it. Do it for good people like Joni Ernst. Do it for my aching feet that can’t handle this much treadmill time. Do it for Drew and Jonathan, who are now languishing in prison over insurance fraud and arson.
Do it for America. God bless America.