A new addition to the Reagan Republican list of non-negotiables.
THE NOVEMBER 2, 2010, ELECTION RESULTS gave America an opportunity to make a U-turn on the Road to Serfdom.
Republicans gained 63 congressmen and six senators in Washington, and nationally won seven governors, more than 680 state legislators, and control of 21 state legislative bodies — all of which will help in redistricting to strengthen the GOP in Congress and the states for the next 10 years.
While these gains are important and encouraging, the most significant change in American politics in 2010 was the introduction of government spending as a vote-moving issue in elections, and Republicans’ acceptance of the issue as a new addition to the Reagan Republican list of non-negotiables.
Prior to the 2009 and 2010 elections, government spending was like the weather — everyone talked about it, but no one did anything about it. Opposition to government spending was rhetorically part of the Reagan Coalition, but operationally it was missing.
The political power of the Reagan Republican coalition flows from vote-moving issues backed up by identifiable political structures that inform and motivate voters. The Second Amendment is powerful because the National Rifle Association has 4 million members and an annual budget of more than $200 million. The tax issue has teeth because Americans for Tax Reform has 235 House members and 41 senators who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose any and all tax hikes. Voters know who has kept or broken the pledge. The life issue is buttressed by the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List-not debating societies, but real live political machines that move votes. The 2 million Americans who home school are organized and protected by the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Parental Rights Organization.
George W. Bush was very careful never to cross those well-defended lines. But there was no identifiable, organized opposition to growing total government spending. So Bush would cut taxes, and spend too much. Leave your guns alone, and spend too much. Protect life, and spend too much.
The overspending of the Bush years led to some grumbling, but no one threw anything heavy or walked out of the room. If some voters did walk away unhappy about spend-too-much, they did so as unheralded individual voters. There was no recognition in the media or in the halls of power that a voting bloc was breaking off.
The Tea Party movement changed all that in 2010. Now there was a visible, palpable single-issue voting bloc motivated by the size of government. The Tea Party movement had rallies and marches. One could count attendance. They were seen, counted, and felt at the August town hall meetings that solidified the Republican commitment to total opposition to Obamacare and cap and trade energy taxes.
Because the spending issue was front and center, independents who had voted 60/40 against Bush’s party in 2006 and 2008 voted 60/40 for Republican candidates in 2010.
It is clear why the spending issue is a powerful winner for Republicans. If the focus is on reducing government spending as a percentage of the economy there are only two solutions. One: spend less. Two: grow the entire economy so that the same size government is less burdensome. Republicans own both issues.
The Democrats have no ability to compete in a conversation about spending less. All their ideas are about spending more. Stimulus one. Stimulus two. It is harder for Democrats to cut the budget because so much of the government spending over the past 80 years has been structured to create and pay off Democrat constituencies.
Republicans have an entire arsenal of ways to grow the economy. Cut the capital gains tax. Cut income tax rates on individuals and business. Reduce regulation. Throttle the trial lawyers. Expand free trade.
Democrats have no proposals that lead to higher rates of economic growth. They have only their Keynesian theories that government spending creates growth. This failure of ideas is exactly what created the Tea Party movement.
THE DEMOCRATS HAVE ONE HOPE: to fool Republicans into shifting their focus from spending to “the deficit.” The establishment recognizes two “equally valid” ways to reduce the deficit: spend less or tax more. Democrats can do “tax more.” This shift of focus would allow Democrats back on the playing field.
If Democrats fool Republicans into defining the problem as “the deficit” rather than spending, then all bipartisan compromises will contain both tax hikes and spending restraint (incidentally, a fatal mix for the 95 percent of Republicans who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose all tax hikes).
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.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online