From the July 2010 - August 2010 issue
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.
At the end of the day, liberty will be preserved by those not only with the courage to enter the fight but also the endurance to sustain it.
Dick Armey is former House majority leader, chairman of FreedomWorks, and recently co-author of Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.
Republicans have done a good job in opposing the initiatives of President Obama. They’ve rarely won, but they’ve turned his supposed triumphs — the stimulus, health care, spending bills — into albatrosses around the necks of Democratic members of Congress. This is important. Obama’s political clout in Washington consists of one thing: the whopping Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. Take them away and he’ll be politically crippled. He can’t rely on his own popularity. As measured by presidential job approval, it’s set a record for the swiftness of its decline — again.
Republicans have Democrats right where they want them. But there’s something missing. We learned from the Republican defeat in the Pennsylvania special election in May that it’s not enough to be anti-Obama or to diss Nancy Pelosi. Many Democratic candidates can deal with that by abandoning Obama and Pelosi, if only rhetorically. Hey, I’m conservative and pro-life and pro-gun, they’ll say, and I don’t like ObamaCare or cap and trade either. That worked for the Democrat who won the Pennsylvania special. Others will follow.
So Republicans need to go where Democrats can’t. They need to put daylight between themselves and their opponents. They need to show how different they really are. How? By acting boldly and being specific. This is what Ronald Reagan and Republican candidates did in 1980. It’s what Gingrich-led Republicans did in 1994.
In both cases, Democrats and the mainstream media thought Republicans were crazy to take strong but risky stands. In 1980, it was a 30 percent, across-the-board cut in individual income tax rates. Democrats and the press thought that was a huge loser for Republicans. But Reagan won in a landslide and Republicans captured the Senate. In 1994, Republicans listed in their Contract with America specific goals they wanted to achieve. Once more, Democrats and the media believed this was suicidal for Republicans. They won both houses of Congress.
Republicans have two great issues: health care and reform. They ought to go beyond advocating repeal of ObamaCare, tell voters what they’d replace it with, and explain the benefits. Representative Paul Ryan has created a Roadmap to reform everything Washington runs or touches: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the tax code, health care, and more. Major parts of it can be transformed into a serious (and popular) program. In Obama’s America, people are fearful. Republicans shouldn’t be.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard.
For the past year and a half, Americans have been faced, for the first time in almost a half century, with the prospect of a Democratic administration and Congress bent on vastly expanding the size and scope of government. The Obama Democrats have had significant policy successes. They have vastly increased the federal budget, have striven to establish government control or direction over important segments of the private sector — gangster government, as I have called it — and have passed significant health care legislation. They have succeeded in their goal of moving America some distance toward the welfare states of Western Europe.
But they have significantly failed to persuade most Americans that this is a good idea. Rather to the contrary: their assumption that economic distress would make Americans more amenable to big-government policies has proven to be unfounded. The Democratic Party is in worse shape with American voters than at any time in the 50 years in which I have been closely following American politics.
Republican officeholders, in Congress and in the states, have wisely opposed the Obama Democrats’ policies with rare unanimity. They have had some significant policy successes. The unions’ Card Check bill to effectively abolish the secret ballot in unionization elections is dead. Cap and trade legislation to address the supposed evil effects of supposedly inevitable global warming seems moribund. Republicans seem on the brink of substantial gains in the 2010 elections, with a realistic possibility of winning a majority in the House, a near-majority in the Senate, and substantial gains in state governments.
But these successes have not been solely the work of Republican incumbents. They have been the product as well of a spontaneous outpouring of opposition to the Obama Democrats’ Europeanizing project symbolized by but not limited to the Tea Party movement. Ronald Reagan came to the presidency in 1980 in a nation determined to reduce taxes and to assert American power in the world. Republicans, if they succeed politically in 2010 and 2012, will do so because the nation is determined to reduce government spending and to fight the Islamist terrorists who seek to wreak maximum damage on America and all decent societies.
Republicans are not yet well prepared to advance policies to achieve these goals, despite some impressive initiatives by individual Republicans in Congress and in the states. They need to think hard about what they can achieve if they win control of the House and what they can do in the states. My instinct is that voters are demanding more radical cuts in spending and in rollbacks of Obama Democratic programs than professional politicians are inclined to believe. The British Conservatives faced something like this challenge and their hesitant response left them short of the majority that seemed within reach. A top adviser to Tony Blair told me that they should have been bolder. I think Republicans would be wise to listen to that advice.
Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. He received The American Spectator’s Barbara Olson Award in 2006.
Have the Republicans learned their lesson?
I’m tempted to give a flip answer: Just ask Sen. Bob Bennett. Seriously, I think they have learned their lesson. You can see it in the unanimous rejection of the unstimulating stimulus package. You can see it in the unanimous rejection of ObamaCare. This is tangible evidence of a change of direction by congressional Republicans. The conservatives are pressing hard now. The more President Obama lurches to the left, the more pushback he faces from the right.
My co-author, Ken Klukowski, and I have written The Blueprint. This book demonstrates calmly, deliberatively, how Obama is subverting the Constitution and bringing back the Imperial Presidency. You don’t learn checks and balances at Harvard Law School or in the Daley machine in Chicago. He thinks he can ride roughshod over 230 years of constitutional governance in this “last best hope of earth.” He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. He’s a UN-Firster. President Obama’s principles draw upon Europe’s failed experiments in democratic socialism.
The only way for Obama to win is for his opponents to fall to fighting among themselves. Dan Quayle was so right to say the Tea Party movement must not spark a Perot-style defection. Too much is at stake this year.
The Tea Party is bringing a refreshing measure of seriousness and principle to politics. Tea Party activists are certainly for lower taxes, limited government, and reduced spending. But they are not only for those good and worthy goals. They gave great rounds of hearty applause to my colleague Tom McClusky. That’s when Tom was the only speaker at a Capitol Hill rally to cry out against mandatory taxpayer funding of abortion in ObamaCare.
The Republicans can succeed this year the way they have
succeeded in the past — by bringing together defense, economic,
and social conservatives into a powerful coalition. That’s the kind
of coalition that fueled the Reagan Revolution and the Republican
Resurgence of 1994. That year was the first time in American
history that a majority of Catholics voted Republican for Congress.
It was also the last time. If Republicans are given another chance
by the American people, they need stop funding Planned Parenthood,
especially its assault on minority communities in this country.
Social issues are not “wedge” issues; they’re “bridge” issues —
and they’ll help strengthen the conservative coalition. Let’s pull
together to keep America from pulling apart.
Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.
For decades Republican leaders told their supporters, “Just wait till we get control of the White House, control of Congress, control of the White House and Congress, and then you’ll see some government-shrinking.” And then in 2000 they got it all. And what did the rest of us get? Not just a failure to cut government, but rather a trillion dollars in new spending, the biggest entitlement expansion since LBJ, federal takeovers of education and marriage, new powers of seizure and surveillance, and two endless wars. No wonder the voters booted them out in 2006 and 2008.
Now it looks like the voters have turned against President Obama and the Democrats even faster, but they’re still not exactly keen on the GOP. Even Republican congressmen ask privately, “Do you think we’ll do it right this time if we take the House again?” Voters wonder, too.
Pundits talk about the Republicans moving “too far to the right.” But that’s old-fashioned, left-right, red-blue thinking. The issue is freedom and self-government versus Washington control, outsiders versus insiders. The voters punished the Republicans for being fiscally irresponsible, socially reactionary, and reckless abroad. So their best course is to simultaneously get back to limited government and fiscal restraint, show young voters and moderates that they’re moving beyond the scary Schiavo and anti-gay stuff, and find a foreign policy that is both strong and sensible. If they could also remember how Ronald Reagan managed to seem sunny and inclusive while enunciating strong small-government principles, they’ll be on the right track.
And then it will be up to the Tea Parties and the people to insist on better performance than we got after 1994 or after 2000. Support for smaller government has been surging since about February 2009, but it’s got to be sustained over a long period, and it’s got to be serious. You can’t have smaller government — or even fiscal responsibility — if voters support all the big programs and just want to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse.” Voters have to hold the Republicans’ feet to the fire and demand real cuts in real programs.
David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer.
The day after Scott Brown drove his green GMC Canyon into the history books, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the highest-ranking elected Republican in the nation, said Brown won because “Americans are electing good Republican candidates who they hope will reverse a yearlong Democrat trend of spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much.” Six days later, McConnell released a list of seven “Suggestions for the State of the Union to Reduce Government Spending.” Not one of the seven cut a dime from the federal budget. Twelve days after that, McConnell issued a press release attacking Democrats for cutting Medicare.
No wonder the Republican Party is undergoing an identity crisis. When Republicans attack Democrats for deficit spending and bailouts, Democrats respond, “Um, you guys did that, too!” Republicans are left complaining not that Democrats do these bad things, but that Democrats take them to 11. Voters don’t know which party to trust.
Republican voters are especially disenchanted. They took one big lesson from the George W. Bush years: Republican politicians will act like Democrats if we let them. Republican primary can-didates are tapping into that better than the leadership is. Many are running as much against their own party’s leadership as against the Democrats. It’s a big reason why Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, and Rand Paul will be GOP nominees this year, and not Charlie Crist, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Trey Grayson.
Still, voters fleeing the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda this fall will wind up with the GOP by de-fault, not because the GOP has done anything to lure voters back. If the Democrats’ overreach brings big GOP victories, it will confirm the Republican establishment view that as long as the Democrats are too radical for the American people, the Republicans can win by offering to spend, regulate, and tax just a little less than the Democrats do.
The GOP base realizes what the establishment doesn’t: America’s welfare state cannot sur-vive as is. Substantial change is needed, and the party that achieves it will be best positioned to maintain power for years. Thus, the fate of the GOP depends on who controls the party’s agenda if Republicans win back some power this fall: the establishment or the reformers. The people don’t want Obama’s big government, but they do want change. A GOP that doesn’t offer it will not stay in power for long.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Before Republicans worry about beating Democrats, we must focus on defeating the appropriations system that has put our country in financial peril.
The appropriations committees in the House and Senate are tasked with spending taxpayers’ money, and many of those powerful committee members believe it is the job of Congress to direct federal spending to parochial interests and pet projects.
Multiply that mentality by 535 members of Congress and the result is a $13 trillion national debt. That’s why every politician bemoans Washington spending on the campaign trail, but actual spending bills are never defeated.
Senior appropriators, Republicans and Democrats, effectively control the House and the Senate using the power of the purse. They buy other members of Congress off with earmarks, which makes it difficult for anyone who accepts earmarks to cut overall spending. It would amount to biting the hand that feeds. Appropriators dominate leadership positions in both parties and are chairman and ranking members of major policy-making committees. They decide how money gets spent, who gets earmarks, how bills get written, and who gets shut out of the closed-door negotiations.
Most importantly, they work in harmony to drive up spending, borrowing, and debt, with no regard to their party label. Shrinking the federal largesse would diminish their power, so they have a built-in incentive to grow government.
That dynamic has caused too many politicians to lose sight of what the voters send them to Washington to do: uphold the Constitution that proscribes a limited federal government. Congress is supposed to focus on national priorities and leave state and local decisions to states and local governments.
Although President Obama’s bailouts and takeovers have been useful in uniting Republicans against his liberal agenda, the GOP is still not united in its commitment to cut spending and debt. The appropriations system has too much control and it will take an earthquake election to break its grip over the party.
There’s hope. Early tremors of that earthquake election have been heard in Pennsylvania and Utah. Voters in those states refused to nominate long-serving incumbents who supported the bank bailouts and government-run health care and embraced earmarks. It’s happening in Kentucky and Florida as well. Primary voters in those states have rewarded candidates who are committed to reducing spending and debt.
An American Awakening is taking place, and voters are demanding a return to constitutional, limited government. They’ve realized politicians who promise to reduce the deficit while they’re working to secure earmarks and pass new programs cannot be trusted.
Republicans should prove we are serious about ending the big spending system by fighting to limit the years someone can serve on the Appropriations Committee. Senators should not be permitted to hold chairmanship of both spending and authorizing committees. And Senate Republicans should follow the House Republicans to enact an earmark moratorium. Doing this would show a good-faith effort toward shutting down the congressional favor factory that’s eating away our national treasure.
Voters may be running away from Democrats this election, but they’re not yet running to Republicans. The big-spending appropriations system is in the way. To regain touch with Americans who are outraged at government greed Republicans must firmly and publicly oppose those who believe it’s their congressional duty to bring home the bacon. Otherwise, the Republican Party will never be able to sincerely represent the conservative principles of fiscal responsibility.
Jim DeMint is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.
Have Republicans learned their lesson? Many have, or at least they grasp a change in the public’s mood since autumn 2008 that the Democrats choose to ignore.
It’s funny how controversial TARP was at the time it was enacted, and yet there was little or no immediate political consequence for it. (One could argue it persuaded independents to see if the Democrats could govern better than President Bush had.) Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and plenty of Democrats in Congress in both parties supported it, with little meaningful backlash from their base. A lot of Americans tentatively supported TARP, cautiously heeding the dire warnings of imminent economic Armageddon. Number-crunchers will insist TARP was necessary to stabilize the markets, but after the infamous AIG bonus payments, the record profits of banks once considered endangered, and the program’s expansion to help out domestic automakers, many voters concluded TARP had been a giant con. About 20 months later, many Americans’ IRAs and 401(k)s are still shrunken, unemployment is still close to 10 percent, and TARP was clearly not a one-time emergency fix, but a herald of a new era of colossal, 12-figure spending bills: the stimulus, health care, giant appropriations bills. The message from Washington is clear: when times are hard, we get to spend more; you get to spend less.
The response from many voters is probably unfit for this magazine’s profanity standards. The message to Republican officeholders is pretty simple: stop spending so much money. Traditionally, deficit spending was the topic of a tut-tutting Robert Samuelson column involving a lot of numbers and far-off dates; Washington’s movers and shakers furrowed their brows for a moment and then continued as normal. Sometime between 2008 and 2010, government spending became a moral issue; Tea Party protesters often talk about “borrowing from our children” or “stealing from the next generation” or some other criminal act to the adorable moppets they’ve brought to the rallies. The deficit is no longer abstract and numerical; it’s now discussed as an act of economic filicide.
The Democratic Party, essentially a resource-extraction machine in most parts of the country, brought several large states to the brink of Greece-like financial ruin: New Jersey, New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts. They used their one-time stimulus funds to keep operating as before. A lot of millionaires have left the high cost-of-living, high-taxation blue states; a lot of working families with children preceded them. The Democratic model of governance isn’t financially sustainable, and that hard fact gets harder to hide by the month.
As one strategist put it to me, “Whoever the Republicans nominate in 2012, he or she had better be good at firing government workers, because that’s what the job is going to require starting in 2013.” A lot of Republicans — not all, but a lot — get this. New Jersey’s Chris Christie himself may not be the future of the GOP, but his arguments and his approach are.
Jim Geraghty, a contributing editor at National Review, writes the Campaign Spot blog.
If the question in a vacuum is whether the national Republican Party is ready again to be a congressional majority, or deserves to be one, the answer would be an emphatic “no.” But politics is not conducted in a vacuum. When compared to the only real alternative, which is continued national Democratic control, the Republicans’ fitness for office must be deemed rather strong. The national Democratic Party neither recognizes nor abides by any limits to government largesse, scope, or power. Its conception of “propriety” is whatever it can get away with that will serve its ideological or partisan ends. Its devotion to the Constitution is negligible. The congressional Democrats — every single one of them, as long as they support the current party leadership in congressional organizing — are anathema and abominations. And an American majority seems to be recognizing this, and willing to act upon it.
The problem is that the Republicans in the three main party committees and in the Senate seem incapable of earning, or deserving, full trust in wielding power. They horribly waste money, both from taxpayers and from political donors. They demonstrate a wholly unmerited arrogance, insisting that Washington knows better than the rubes in the hinterlands. They interfere in party primaries when they ought to stay the hell out. They accept “conventional wisdom” about what is politically feasible, at times handing liberals victories the left has not earned while at other times taking unnecessarily obstinate procedural stances to protect their own prerogatives divorced from real philosophical cause. And their ability to explain matters of principle is often hideously amateurish.
Nevertheless, the Republicans’ lack of adequate skill, backbone, or philosophical understanding is far preferable to the national Democrats’ determination to move in exactly the wrong directions. For a shipwrecked man struggling to stay afloat and alive, a weak tide toward shore is far better than a strong tide toward the open sea. Plus, it must be admitted that House Republicans at least seem to be becoming more willing to stand on principle, and more effective at doing so. And any gain in numbers, any at all, that might help block the radical Obama agenda is a gain well worth making. Conservatives should devoutly hope for Republican ascendancy this fall not because Republicans can deliver anything approaching nirvana, but because the alternative is intolerable.
Quin Hillyer is a senior editorial writer for the Washington Times and a senior editor for The American Spectator.
During their time in the wilderness, Republicans have not convincingly demonstrated that they are serious about getting the federal budget under control. Sure, Republicans talk a big game about President Obama’s expansion of government and the record deficits being accrued under his watch. But this is mostly political theater. The focus is typically either on opposing spending in vague terms or highlighting earmarks that, while certainly wasteful, do not compose a significant portion of the budget. The only way to get serious about spending is to confront the looming entitlement crisis, which represents $108 trillion in long-term debt, putting our nation on track for a Greek-style financial meltdown. Yet Republicans, despite portraying themselves as champions of limited government, have not demonstrated any more willingness to confront this problem than Democrats. And let us not forget that when Republicans were last in the majority, they used their power to ram through what was at the time the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society in the form of the Medicare prescription drug plan.
While Rep. Paul Ryan has unveiled a serious proposal to do something about the problem, the Republican leadership ran away from his Roadmap plan once it came under attack, scrambling to emphasize that it wasn’t the official Republican budget. Whenever I’ve interviewed GOP candidates this election cycle who tell me about the need to get spending under control, I have pressed them on the issue of entitlements, and I have yet to get a satisfactory answer. If candidates are afraid to talk about entitlement reform to a conservative journalist when seeking a Republican nomination, then there’s no reason to believe that they’ll be willing to take on the issue if they find themselves in the majority. And while there may be some principled exceptions, it’s difficult to imagine that they would approach the critical mass needed for real reform
Even worse, during the health care debate, Republicans established themselves as guardians of entitlements, focusing much of their criticism of the new national health care law on its cuts to Medicare. House Minority Leader John Boehner has vowed to restore those cuts if Republicans retake the majority, and many GOP congressional candidates have been using the issue to scare up senior citizen votes. While these tactics may result in short-term political gain for Republicans, they also perpetuate the third rail status of a program that desperately needs to be reformed if we’re going to avoid a fiscal collapse. Entitlement spending will burden future generations with more debt, crushing tax rates, a stagnant economy, and runaway inflation.
The GOP has made the war on America’s youth a bipartisan affair.
The party is not ready to retake the majority.
Philip Klein is The American Spectator’s Washington correspondent.
“If I were a U.S. senator, I would vote for her [Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor] confirmation, because objective qualifications should matter more than ideology in the judicial confirmation process.”
You’re thinking Charlie Crist said this, right? Or maybe it was soon-to-be former senator Arlen Specter. Or Arnold. Or, well, others amongst the usual suspects. Sorry.
The writer of the August 4, 2009 op-ed appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer was…Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Mr. I’m-Not-Arlen Specter. Mr. I’m-a-Conservative. Displaying a potentially revealing, not to mention surprising, RINO (Republican in Name Only) streak on the issue of judicial nominees, the man who drove Specter from the GOP and is now the party’s nominee for the Senate has already abandoned — before the votes are even counted — the principle that principles count when approving judicial nominees. This is important if conservatives are thinking a Republican Senate would promptly put the brakes on the headlong leftward lurch the country has endured under President Obama.
Supreme Court nominees are more visible than lower court nominees, but if indeed Toomey sees no problem surrendering to statist judges — then his prospective presence in the Senate is already a gain for Democrats. Presumably he would be a vote for such left-leaning Obama nominees as Goodwin Liu, the radical Berkeley professor opposed by even the moderate Lindsay Graham.
Like clockwork, Toomey’s evolution began winning plaudits from the liberal media. “Toomey clearly has gotten the memo that he needs to moderate his positions,” enthused a Politico columnist. Cooed the Washington Post: “It’s…a recognition on Toomey’s behalf that he must find ways to change the image of himself as an arch conservative.”
Has the GOP learned its lesson? Or are we returning to Barry Goldwater’s “dime store New Deal” — liberalism on the cheap. The overwhelming GOP rejection of the stimulus and ObamaCare are hopeful signs. The addiction to earmarks and the apparent acquiescence to Elena Kagan, like that to Sotomayor — decidedly not. Judging from Toomey’s apparent attempt to “moderate,” the answer is an unsettling maybe.
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, writer and author. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Polling from Gallup, Rasmussen, and others suggest that it is increasingly likely that Republicans will recapture control of the House of Representatives in 2010, only four years after losing the Speakership to Nancy Pelosi in 2006.
Republicans are more enthusiastic and engaged. Independents, those non-aligned voters who began to swing against Bush in 2004 and then more strongly against Republicans in 2006 and 2008 largely over the protracted occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, have swung back to the Republicans in reaction to Obama’s massive government spending spree.
Republican wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and the massive turnouts at Tea Party rallies over the last year are another sign of building Republican strength.
And finally, we have word from a Democrat who was privy to the Democratic Party’s own polling and plans for November. Having seen the battlefield from Obama, Reid, and Pelosi’s war room, House Appropriations chairman David Obey decided to abandon ship. The grass does not look greener from the other side.
The question is not so much, will the Republicans win the House, but will they deserve to govern? Will they govern well? Will they govern as Reagan Republicans rather than Bush Republicans, who assume the federal government has a role in everything, that buying campaign contributions with earmarks is clever and that throwing money at a problem is good governance?
Have Republicans decided that federal spending is the problem, not a fundraising tool or a PR gimmick?
There are several reasons to believe that answer is yes.
Up until the last two years Republicans believed that too much spending was not a vote-moving issue. They knew from experience that gun owners, taxpayers, and pro-lifers were organized and would penalize a politician who attacked them. But who had lost an election because he did too many earmarks? Vice President Cheney announced that no one ever lost an election due to overspending. What powerful lobby on K Street punished overspending per se?
The Tea Party movement sprang up in response to Obama’s spending. The tax hikes had not yet arrived. Arlen Specter collapsed in the polls not for his various liberal impulses over the years — but right after he voted for the stimulus spending plan. He had to leave the party. Senate veteran Bob Bennett of Utah bragged of his earmarking prowess and ability to do things (read: steal stuff) for Utah. He lost.
There apparently is a “spend less” constituency and they have identified themselves and are visibly organized through the Tea Party movement.
Politicians, like most mammals, have endoskeletons, a skeletal system inside their bodies. You cannot see them or know their strength. It is not wise to assume that they can withstand the pressure of the spending interest lobbies in Washington or state capitals. The Tea Party movement is an exoskeleton, an external skeleton that clams and lobsters have. It provides protection against pressure.
Those freshmen elected in 2010 will have their first taste of politics in a year when the message to spend less is clear. Incumbents are already trimming their sails to the new wind-watching the slow learners getting crushed in the primaries does wonders pour encourager les autres.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The American Spectator Foundation is the 501(c)(3) organization responsible for publishing The American Spectator magazine and training aspiring journalists who espouse traditional American values. Your contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Each donor receives a year-end summary of their giving for tax purposes.
Copyright 2013, The American Spectator. All rights reserved.