And do they deserve to win big this November? And if they do win, do they know what to do? Can they ever be trusted again? A pre-election symposium, from our Summer Issue.
W. James Antle III
Is the Republican party ready to regain power? Probably not — we have seen that how Republicans behave in the minority, especially under a Democratic president, is no predictor of how they will act in the majority. As steadfast as they have been against President Obama, relatively few Republicans who voted for the TARP bailout, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, or our exercise in Mesopotamian nation-building have repented.
Yet it is a risk conservatives have no choice but to take. Hamstrung Democrats can paradoxically be better at stifling government growth than liberated Republicans, but ineffectual Democratic majorities are like dams: the odds of anything getting through are small, but the result of any breach is catastrophic. The Blue Dogs’ sense of self-preservation failed them on the stimulus and health care, both of which cry out for repeal, with cap and trade lurking not far behind.
The Democrats have now done things only Republicans can undo. The question is whether the GOP will be up to the task. They’ll have to strike quickly and decisively. Most of the good the last Republican majority did was in 1995-96. By 1998, they were into earmarks and trying to out-spend Bill Clinton, with another flurry of small-ball conservative reforms during the first two years of George W. Bush.
The most important thing is to improve the quality of Republicans in Washington. So far this project has been a mixed bag. On the positive side, there is Pat Toomey over Arlen Specter, Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist, and Rand Paul over Trey Grayson. But Mark Kirk and Michael Castle will give Senate Republicans a slight nudge to the left. Things look better in the House, where there is more new blood.
Politically, Republicans are probably better off winning enough
seats to effectively check Obama without giving him a Gingrich
figure to demonize in 2012. The GOP excels at this role.
Unfortunately, the country needs more than gridlock — it needs
Republicans to make serious in-roads in the opposite
W. James Antle III is associate editor of The American Spectator.
The secret to victory in November for Republicans is simple: act like Republicans. When we act like ourselves, we win.
Republicans won control of Congress in 1994 because we had confidence in our principles and in the American people’s willingness to understand and reward a national vision based on lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.
Along the way, however, Republicans lost sight of the reasons the American people put them in charge in the first place. They started acting like Democrats, with all the predictable consequences: explosive spending, Clinton-style “triangulation,” and a destructive tendency to cater to interest groups rather than their constituencies. The result was equally predictable: in 2006 and 2008, the American public’s patience ran out and it voted for the other party.
By the 2006 elections, Congress had stopped listening to the
American people. They lost sight of our country’s founding
principles, which are Republican principles, and traded the liberty
of their constituents for their own job security. Fiscal
responsibility was lost in the fog of “compassionate” conservatism,
a bureaucratic code word for political inconsistency and the
enabling of Washington’s spending addiction.
It is difficult to say whether Republican politicians have learned their lesson. It must be noted that congressional Republicans stood strong during the health care battle, calling attention to the problems within the Democrats’ health care reform bill and proposing innovative plans of their own.
What is clear is that the American public isn’t waiting on Republicans to get their act together. Insofar as the Tea Party movement is a conservative uprising, it is aimed at both parties equally — as we most recently saw in the primary defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah. The message to Washington should be clear: having an “R” next to your name doesn’t guarantee anything right now.
Never before have I seen such a strong public demand for small-government conservative leaders who are willing to lower taxes, rein in spending, and support private sector growth. Voters across the nation are joining the Tea Party movement to remind politicians of their oaths to defend the Constitution and serve constituents with honesty, integrity, and consistency.
Fortunately, a new generation of conservative leaders has emerged to answer this demand, promising to defeat the culture of corruption in Washington and to take America back in 2010. New Republican candidates like Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul, and Utah Senate candidate Mike Lee are strong conservatives who have shown up for the fight and will provide a solid, fiscally responsible bloc of Senate votes. If Republican candidates continue to act boldly and renew our commitment to the principles of our Founding Fathers, we will take back the majority in November.
But we cannot forget that winning elections is just the beginning for the limited-government movement. Our job as citizens and taxpayers continues after the elections with our duty to hold legislators accountable for their actions on the local, state, and federal levels.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online