Conservatives Against The GOP, Again - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Conservatives Against The GOP, Again

Jonah Goldberg joins the list of conservatives who see a bright side to Republicans losing control of Congress this year. I cannot think of one good reason why Republicans deserve to win this year, but at the same time I wonder whether Republicans losing Congress would have the long-term positive effect on the party that conservatives hope it would. In my view, the most compelling argument for a Republican loss is the hope that if they lose because of a drop-off in turnout among conservatives, they wouldn't take conservative voters for granted in the future. But there's also just as much of a risk of them turning to the left in response to a defeat. Ramesh Ponnuru addressed this fear in his NY Times piece earlier in the week:

Some conservatives worry that Republican officialdom will see defeat as a reason to turn left. But that didn’t happen after the last major Republican defeat in 1992. Then, conservatives were able to persuade the party that it had not lost power because it was too far right.

While his point is valid, I think he's only selectively citing history here. After Clinton's reelection victory in 1996, Republicans, who felt they had lost the battle over the government shutdown, backed away from their small government agenda. When Republicans pushed through pork-laden spending in the fall of 1998, it hampered conservative turnout and they lost seats in November. However, instead of renewing their commitment to small government in response, we got "compassionate conservatism."

If Republicans lose control of Congress this year, they may interepret the loss as being the result of alienating small government voters, but they may also dismiss that explanation and see their defeat as a referendum on the Iraq War and an unpopular president.

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