by John Hawkins | May 24, 2006 11:44 am
Over the last few weeks, the conservative blogosphere and punditocracy have been aiming a wave of venom at the GOP in Washington that’s so wide and deep that you could practically surf on it. The grumbling over out-of-control spending, the Gang-of-14 compromise, Harriet Miers, the Dubai Port deal, and most of all, illegal immigration, has become ceaseless and increasingly bitter.
The dismay at the performance of Congress has gotten so bad that a conservative stalwart like Peggy Noonan has actually begun speculating that the “White House has decided it actually doesn’t like the base,” while in other quarters, the idea that the GOP might benefit long-term from losing power in the elections later this year has already started to jell into conventional wisdom.
This is understandable because the GOP in Washington, President Bush included, have been “stinking it up” since the 2004 election. To be fair, the House has shown some signs of life on spending and illegal immigration since Rep. John Boehner has become Majority Leader, but the same can’t be said of the Senate, which has performed abysmally—or Bush, who, in his second term, has shown about the same level of political competence as a fourth grader running for hall monitor.
Since that’s the case, it’s not hard to see why so many conservatives have become dispirited and angry about the performance of our elected representatives. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about politics, it’s that the solution to the GOP’s problems is never, “more Democrats.”
That doesn’t mean that we conservatives should engage in a bunch of fake “rah-rah” or refuse to criticize Republicans if they deserve it, but it does mean that when November rolls around, conservatives should show up at the ballot box and pull the lever for the GOP.
Philosophically, that doesn’t sit well with some conservatives. They believe, with some justification, that if we don’t punish these wayward Republicans, their performance will continue to disappoint. But that’s only half the equation. It’s not about just the Republicans who’d be losing, it’s about the Democrats who’d be taking their place. Would we be better off replacing the most wishy washy Republicans with Democrats who believe that taxes are way too low and that Rep. John Murtha would make a fantastic Secretary of Defense? I think not.
Now, some people point to the divided government of the nineties and believe that if we once again had different parties in power, that we’d see less spending as a result. But, what people need to remember is that was a unique situation. Newt Gingrich’s revolution featured Reagan Republicans getting into power for the first time in decades, in part because they promised to restrain government spending and, indeed, they were highly motivated to wrestle down government expenditures.
However, the Democrats, being Democrats, believe in bigger, more expensive government, not shrinking the size and cost of the beast. So, if they got in power, we’d be much more likely to see a situation like the eighties, where we had a President who believed in smaller government overpowered by Democrats who just couldn’t spend enough of our money.
We also must keep in mind that Republican philosophy up on the Hill has changed for the worse as well. Today, if the Democrats want to spend $100 million—instead of saying, “no way,” the Republicans are more philosophically inclined to say, “How about $50 million instead?” Then after the new boondoggle becomes law at $50 million, they pat themselves on the backs for, “taking an issue away from the Democrats,” and “saving” the taxpayers $50 million. That is not exactly a formula for reducing the size of the budget, especially when we have a President who has never vetoed a single bill for having too much pork in it (or for any other reason).
So, what can we do to get the deficit under control? Fight for a Balanced Budget Amendment? Good idea. Support members of Congress like Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Mike Pence who’re fighting tooth and nail against pork? Yes. Insist on having a presidential candidate in 2008 who believes in cutting spending? Absolutely. But, replacing spendthrift Republicans with Democrats who’ve never met a program they thought was overfunded? Let’s just say that’s not the best way to handle the situation.
We also can’t forget about judges. The “Gang-of-14” deal is no longer in effect after the November elections. If Stevens or Ginsburg retires and being willing to pull the trigger on the nuclear option turns out to be the difference between getting another Samuel Alito through or having to settle for an Alberto Gonzales, do you want more or less Republicans in the Senate?
Then there’s impeachment. The liberals in Congress are absolutely chomping at the bit to impeach Bush for anything and everything they can come up with. That’s not only because they absolutely despise him, and because their base is demanding it, but because they want payback for Bill Clinton. Would two years of politically motivated impeachment threats be good for the country?
How about taxes? Do you think they would go up or down under a Democratically controlled Congress? Do you think Bush’s tax cuts, which have helped revive the economy and have been one of his greatest achievements domestically, would survive if we had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?
Perhaps most importantly, we shouldn’t forget about the war. Could we see the Democrats put enormous pressure on Bush to force him to pull out of Iraq before the situation on the ground merits it? Sure. It might destabilize the country and render the sacrifices our troops have made meaningless, but they could blame the resulting disaster on Bush—and quite frankly, that’s probably all that would matter to a lot of the Democrats in Congress.
Here’s my advice: set your emotions aside and think long and hard about what a Democratically controlled Congress would really mean. Is the satisfaction of, “teaching the Republicans a lesson,” worth the price? Think back to the Clinton years: conservatives certainly stuck it to Old “Read My Lips,” but the price turned out to be eight years of, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” In my book, that wasn’t such a great trade-off and keep in mind, when you’re talking about congressmen and senators, it could be worse. Incumbent politicians are tougher to get rid of than a cockroach infestation and 40 years from now, do you really want to be sitting around, remembering how you stayed home and helped the next Robert Byrd get into office? Folks, be mad at the GOP if you don’t think they’re doing a good job. Call your senator, call your congressman and give ’em hell if they deserve it. But, when November rolls around, make sure to vote because there’s more on the line than you might think.
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