Republican Reckoning

This article is an interesting treatment of some of the challenges facing the Republican Party, as it tries to figure out what it really stands for and what it really has to offer as an opposition party during the first term of a new President. My guess is that there are many people who are troubled, as I am, by the rampant federal spending and the increased taxes that inevitably will result. The concern about what the federal government is doing — which has found a populist outlet in the “tea parties” that have been occurring — would seem to give the Republicans a strong base from which to oppose what appear to be classic “tax and spend” policies.

The problem for the GOP is that many people, myself included, are equally troubled by the “conservative” position on social issues like gay marriage. I understand that many people have strongly held religious beliefs about what marriage is. I respect such views, but I also think that we cannot let religious beliefs dictate social policy — in part because America is a land that welcomes and tolerates many different religious views. Gay Americans, when they have decided to make a long-term commitment to each other, should able to enjoy the same legal rights and protections that heterosexual couples do. Being married has a religious element, but it also has broad civil legal consequences — in paying taxes, in obtaining health benefits, and in estate planning, among other areas. I think society should encourage committed couples to legally memorialize their commitment. If that commitment wanes — as it has for countless heterosexual couples — the law should provide a remedy.

The belief that there should be less government and more individual rights favors both a smaller, less financially voracious federal government and social policies that minimize government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens. Many people are committed to both of these concepts. Until the Republican Party figures out how to really appeal to those people, while at the same time continuing to enjoy the support of the “religious right,” it is going to have a difficult time putting together a working majority of voters.

Draft Day Disappointment

The NFL draft begins yesterday, and when the fifth choice arrives, the Browns trade with the Jets, who draft Mark Sanchez. That seemed like a smart move to me — I’m not sold on drafting QBs high in the draft; too often they turn out to be million-dollar busts. (See, e.g., Tim Couch.) The Browns get three players (none apparently of the impact variety) and the Jets first- and second-round picks. Okay, I’m willing to trust Eric Mangini’s knowledge of the Jets’ talent, and the Browns have so many needs — on defense, at running back, on the offensive line — that stockpiling picks makes sense. Then, the Browns trade down again, and again — and in the meantime Russell and I are texting like mad, hoping against hope that the Browns draft Beanie Wells.

I am a proud Ohio State fan, and I’ve watched Beanie Wells for three years. In every big game he has played in, he has broken at least one big run. He breaks tackles, gets past the line of scrimmage, pulls away from lineman and linebackers, and then punishes defensive backs and safeties with a wicked stiff-arm. He has that rare combination of size, speed, power, ferocity, and toughness that makes him a special player — easily one of the best offensive players at Ohio State during the past 40 years. He has carried a major part of the Buckeyes’ offensive load during his three years in school, and he has been nicked up, but he has played through the pain. His injuries, however, apparently are what caused pro scouts to move him down the draft board. I think that kind of analysis is stupid. Too many pro scouts seem to be wedded to metrics, rather than paying attention to what kind of player the prospect is on the field, against challenging competition. By that measure, Beanie Wells is a stud.

Finally, the Browns announce their first-round pick — and it is a center named Alex Mack. Leaving aside the fact that the guy is named for a Nickelodeon show the kids used to watch in the ’90s, he is a center who played in the Pac-10! He is probably an upgrade from Hank Fraley, the current center, but a center simply is not an impact player — and the Browns desperately need impact players. And while USC obviously has had a terrific team, the PAC-10 hasn’t exactly had a bunch of great teams with great defensive lines lately. So, instead of a potential game-breaking talent who had great games against tough competition, the Browns pick . . . a center. It’s unbelievable — but not really, since the Browns did this some years ago when they drafted Jeff Faine. As for the rest of the draft so far, the Browns picked up two receivers (including Brian Robiskie of Ohio State, who has been a quality player, but not a game-breaker) and a defensive end from Hawaii. (Again, what kind of competition has that player faced?) The end result is a head-scratcher.

This is why it is so challenging to be a Browns fan. Your hopes get raised as the Browns appear to be making savvy trades, stockpiling picks, and then just as they have the chance to draft a great player who could help to turn the franchise around they draft . . . a center. Sigh.