Voters clearly and powerfully nuked Republicans by throwing most of them out of office in a resounding historical mandate last week.
Whatever your view, two narratives definitely reflect voters' sentiment: Corruption in government and a disastrously listless economy-the latter has been and still is critically hemorrhaging like a hemophiliac under Gov. Benigno Fitial's charge.
Both are clear mandates for Independent-Republicans to resolve. We shall see what kind of steel they are made of, clearing a mountain of mess piled by this administration. Partisan acrimony is at its peak while the sentiment of voters on leadership is at subterranean low.
The Fitial Republicans ignored red signs on their radar screen: Call it “Fitialcare”-power plant deal-that would saddle taxpayers and employers with more than their share of fees and taxes. In their self-induced coma, the “ten” decided to treat the governor like a virgin in a bordello. They ignored the greater question: With deepening economic meltdown and ruination of posterity's future, is there room left to maneuver with impunity doing what it does best-ignore the livelihood of governance?
Too, would not this deal force the final shutdown of private industries? How does this administration work up new revenue streams when it's incapable of guiding policy formulation conducive to investments? This and other issues are indelibly in the minds of young voters yelling loudly, “No mas!”
In DC there's serious concern about the Fiscal Cliff. Here we're already victims of Fitial Cliff that would turn for the worse when the CNMI begins paying for Fitialcare-power plant deal-costing $2.3 billion. Yep! Start playing “Help!” by the four lads from Liverpool.
Shift in demography
Now, if you look at the trend of votes and where it landed, it's obvious that most of it went to Independent-Republicans. It did a huge slam-dunk of 12 for 12! The Covenant and Republican came in a distant four apiece. Not a very encouraging trend when taking an overview of future contests. In fact, both have fallen flat on their faces singing with discordant notes, “Another One Bites the Dust!”
How pleasant to see young voters holding sway in favor of Independent-Republicans. It means, the IR had a message that resonated well with this group of voters. They've embraced a call for reinstatement of a government of laws and rebuilding the economic foundation of these isles. It's a well-stated mandate and the only sure way to retrieving and securing their future.
It feels humbling that our young people have clearly grasped the enormity and dire consequences of negligence in government. Some are siblings of retired folks whose paychecks hang in the balance by March 2014. Some have seen the hardship their parents had to endure as Medicaid recipients who were temporarily denied their medication. This is because the governor was on his way to a meeting in American Samoa about coral reefs and a ballgame in Idaho.
If I may reiterate, the issues before us are significant and daunting. It obviates the question: How do we address our current crises that require rigorous and principle-based leadership? Disagreement, rather than being an inconvenience, is an essential reflection of the public mood. Hard-nosed bargaining is necessary in a democracy. Leadership and compromise are essential components of any deliberative discussion, neither of which meant anything to this administration.
Reagan once said, “In the prevailing crises, government is not the solution, but the problem.” What lies ahead could mean swift impeachment, the one word that keeps dripping from the lips of Independent Republicans. Anyway, most folks know the issues that will require unprecedented economic insight, policy vision, and very skilled political leadership-all qualities in short supply in this administration.
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The resounding rebuke of Republicans brings into focus whether it could ever find itself again. The devastation is near total and it's hard placing several million pieces of a broken glass puzzle together. Too, it's hard crawling on broken glass to find out which piece fits where.
The GOP needs to do mountainside retreat, sipping one of its infamous homogenized, pasteurized or silk milk. It needs some quiet meditation to dwell on its thwarted ambition, self-destructing decision, blocking impeachment that finally reined in quick political irrelevancy.
Of course, none of them is brimming with “what-didn't-kill-you-will-make-you-a-stronger-spirit” stuff either. Nah! Most are busy tucking their oversized tails between their fat legs.
Reconstituting a disintegrated party is a monumental task. It's especially hard when its head and chief architect of disunity has severed relations with allies in recent past. Then there's the inevitable curse of a second term. It's no Sunday picnic either. It's more like self-destruction!
High vs village roads
Usually, I'd take the high road on controversies if only to secure some sense of civility, overview, and analyzed perspectives on issues. It's the forest over the trees, so to speak.
But it is at the village level where the true sentiments of the simple village folks come out wrapped in the truth of real life experiences. I mean, how do we refute sentiments about postponement of Medicaid matching funds that prevents recipients receiving critical medication and healthcare? While this side of the argument isn't necessarily right, it's the obvious lack of urgency and compassion from the big chief on the hill that infuriated folks everywhere.
Medical referral requires hard fiscal decisions. Do we continue it or must we explain to our people that the cost of chronic and catastrophic illnesses requiring off-island medical attention must be borne by the patient or family? Staying healthy is a right. It requires proactive means from the self to stay healthy. Having other taxpayers pay for specialty medical attention off-island isn't a right. Not by a long shot!
Folks who move in and out of underemployment and unemployment look at the likelihood of losing the first family home, given the instability of job security triggered by disastrous economic conditions here. Like paying for hefty government debts, economic landscape shifts where we can't even pay for normal obligations. So it's another issue that new leadership must contend with in 2013.
There's obviously the need to cut spending, including major reform to the Fund so it retains sustainability on its own. But do politicians have the resolve to buckle down to principle-based reasoning, shaving off a mountain of debt versus the huge decline in revenues and how scarce resources are shared. Mandate for the right changes? Yep! It's up to the IR to find common ground on this and other issues.
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.