Congressional Republicans showed surprising fidelity to principle in opposing the Democrats’ big spending pork-ridden “stimulus” package. But the toughest battle now is occurring among the governors. Men of principle, like South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, are opposed by proto-Democrats like California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reports the New York Times:
Republican governors split sharply during the weekend over how to respond to the economic crisis, a debate whose outcome will go a long way toward shaping how the national party redefines itself in the wake of its election defeats of recent years.
The divisions were evident at the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association here as the Republicans differed both in their approaches to their own states’ budget shortfalls and in their attitudes toward President Obama‘s $787 billion stimulus package.
Some party leaders said Republicans should compromise with the Democratic president and move to the political center to attract independents’ votes. A small but vocal group of conservative governors countered that the party instead must rebuild by standing against new spending and taxes to regain the trust of conservative voters.
“There’s a tug of war right now within the party as to where we go next,” Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, one of the conservative Republican leaders, said in an interview. “I am in the camp that says we go back to basics. There are other folks who say something a little different. The answer will be determined in this tug of war.”
Among those tugging opposite him is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who only last week concluded a battle to close his state’s $42 billion budget deficit over the opposition of Republican state lawmakers who opposed tax increases in the compromise. While Mr. Schwarzenegger was in Washington for the governor’s meeting, a petition condemning him circulated back home at the California Republican Party convention.
This is a moment for the grassroots to speak up. The Republican Party has a chance to regain its voice in opposing wasteful spending. The rank and file need to make clear who speaks for them.
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