CARMEL — Back in my tender days of youth, I had the great fortune of working on the reelection campaign of incumbent Republican Governor Otis Bowen. In 1975 and early 1976, Otis Bowen was just about as popular as sliced bread. He had brought much-needed property tax reform to the good taxpayers of Indiana, instituted a state-wide medical emergency system and adopted a medical malpractice law that was destined to become popular nationwide.  

Everywhere you turned you saw billboards, bumper stickers and advertisements that said simply, “Otis Bowen, He Hears You.” Bowen was so popular that his job approval rate was nearing 65%. The word came down to the campaign that the only way we could lose the election was if we screwed up. The message was clear, do not screw up. The campaign, under the steady hands of Chairman J. B. King and Campaign Manager Dan Evans did not screw up and Bowen went on to an overwhelming reelection victory 56.8% to 42.6% for Democrat Secretary of State Larry Conrad.

Fast forward to 2022 and we are now told that all the stars point to a Republican landslide in the mid-term elections. Polls give Republicans a wide lead in the battle to control the United States House and Senate, with historically high numbers of incumbent Democrat Representatives calling it a day and announcing their retirement.  This has traditionally been the universal sign of throwing in the towel and tacitly admitting that an election whipping is on the way.  

Polls testing the generic popularity of Republicans and Democrats show Republicans carrying an unheard 10% advantage. Yes, it sure looks like it will be Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelL in January 2023.  

Add to the dismal polling news facing Democrats and the consistently low approval ratings of President Joe Biden and most Republicans get almost giddy at the thought of big election victories in November. Not wishing to play the role of Debbie Downer, I still feel that I must use the words of my father whenever I anticipated athletic victory as a youth. Dad always said, “Do not get cocky. You still must win the race.”  My father and Otis Bowen sent the same message, “Don’t screw it up!”

So, as we rapidly approach the 2022 mid-term elections, I must remind my fellow Republican brethren to not get cocky and don’t screw this election up!

This upcoming election is just way too important to blow it. The fact of the matter is that no lead is safe when it comes to politics. Remember, the Atlanta Falcons carried a 21-3 lead into halftime of the 2017 Super Bowl. Ask new Colts quarterback Matt Ryan, how quickly an insurmountable lead can be surmounted.

Why do I believe that Republicans have the potential to blow their currently comfortable position before the November elections? My reason for caution is that both political parties have demonstrated over the years an innate and remarkable ability to screw up. The fact is that big polling margins tend to function as the grease that loosens the lips of the Tin Man and politicians. As much as I would like to believe that the Democrat Party has a monopoly on nut jobs, lunatics and the politically tone deaf, the truth is that the Republican Party has more than its share of nut jobs, lunatics and the politically tone deaf.

The weekly antics of our Republican looney tunes keep pace step for step with those of their Democrat counterparts. In a perfect world where the press would give equal coverage to the foibles, foul ups and tom foolery of Republicans and Democrats alike, the unforced errors of both parties might offset each other.  

However, the reality is that the broadcast media, newspapers and social media are solidly in the tank for the Democrat Party. In a target rich environment of stupidity, Republicans definitely come out the loser when it comes to the light being shined on their, sometimes, whacky antics and words. Therefore, unless a miracle of God occurs and every television news outlet (except Fox News) goes up in smoke, every newspaper goes bankrupt and social media gets hacked to remove fact checkers, Republicans need to chill out, keep their mouths shut and focus on promoting legislation on both a national and state level that benefits Joe Sixpack.  

It’s time to call a truce on the culture wars that drive a spike down the middle of the electorate.

Back in more quaint times, before content hungry 24-hour news channels and omnipresent social media websites, political party leadership had ways of dealing with the wayward members of their party. In the days when the nightly news consisted of 23 minutes of state news followed by 23 minutes of Walther Cronkite, Peter Jennings or Chet and David, there just was not time to give coverage to stupid things said by a congressperson, state representative or governor.  

Congressmen and representatives were kept in check by the old axiom, “To get along, go along.” Leadership used the reins of political power to make their members stay in the corral and not wander off. There is a reason they call some members of party leadership whips. Unfortunately, these days Congressman Doolittle or Representative Knownuthin can get exposure from a multitude of media outlets. And Lord how some of our elected officials love to hear themselves on the television!

This brings me to my best advice for the Republican Party and their elected officials including U. S. senators, U. S. representatives, governors, state senators and representatives. It also includes former presidents. Please, please, please, before you accept the invitation to make an appearance on television, address the Aryan Nation or speak at the Ayotollahs of America Southern Conference, for goodness sakes think twice.  

Before you bash immigrants, Muslims, gays or global warming adherents, remember what you say can and will be used against you. Call a truce in your war on public education. The off-hand comments and quips that you make in committees or to a cub reporter may be tomorrow’s headline. Anything that may be taken out of context, will be. Before you drive, do not drink. Lay off any drug stronger than aspirin.  

Don’t touch secretaries, campaign aides, interns or lobbyists. If you believe that there is some secret vast conspiracy, then keep it secret until after the election.  Don’t beat your wives, girlfriends or children. Do not lie or stretch the truth to the breaking point.  

Keep your hands out of campaign funds and out of your constituents’ pockets. Before speaking, ask yourself, “How will my words be received by the honest working men and women of America who are struggling to make their way in a very difficult economy?” Treat everyone from servers to corporate CEOs with respect and courtesy. Remember that nothing good happens after 10 at night. Lastly, please recall Ronald Reagan’s admonition that, “The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is your friend and ally.” 

Dunn is the former Howard County Republican chairman.