|N GENERAL, THIS was a good election. The only way to make it great would be for Republicans to have lost another five seats in the Senate and another 20 in the House. The worse the loss, the quicker and more intensely the GOP searches for its wandering soul.|
The party of Reagan is sick and has been for some time. It is not pleasant when the electorate finally recognizes it. And the situation will not improve significantly until the Republican Party recognizes its ill health and begins to take corrective measures. The measures are these:
Remember that you once were, and should be again, the party of small government. That some in the GOP think there is such a thing as big government conservatism only shows how ailing it really is. Stick a thermometer in the mouth of the Bush crowd and their friends in the Senate and the House and watch the mercury climb to the letters GOS -- short for "Grand Old Spending."
Bush has signed every spending bill that crossed his desk. His veto pen, apparently, was lost or stolen.
His enormous education bill in 2001 was a loser, the big farm bill in 2002 was atrocious and the enormous Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003 could only cause the last remaining fiscal conservative in the White House to blush. Chalk the latter up as the largest entitlement expansion in the last four decades. For shame.
As the deficit ballooned, all the president could talk about was cutting it in half. Faint-hearted, that.
Reagan said, "Government is not the solution, it is the problem." Our current president has said, "I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives." Unfortunately, "help" has meant much more. And more means the government is running our lives more today than they did yesterday.
Do some real soul-searching, stat. No better time to do so. In the House, culturally and economically moderate Republicans took a serious hit. In the Senate it is a major loss that Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was defeated, but it is a plus that Ohio's Sen. Mike DeWine and Rhode Island's Sen. Lincoln Chaffee are walking out with him. The latter, always a particularly onerous liberal inclusion into the party, won't be part of the revival discussions. In other words, there are fewer liberals and moderates today, and a number of good conservatives should ponder what could happen in 2008 if the passionate Contract with America days could be revived. That is, get an economic and culturally conservative plan and execute it.
Find that pen. My hunch is that today Karl Rove and others are beginning to remember where they left that veto pen. Mr. Bush will need it as Democrats try to thrust all manner of deviance, higher taxes, and more spending on the populace. With the Democrats' big election night over, so is Bush's ability to assert his will from the Oval Office. But the Dems aren't going to rule the roost either; hence, gridlock.
Search for and find your morally conservative character. The Judeo-Christian ethic is nothing to be ashamed of in public policy or personal life. When you either act like you are ashamed of it or find yourself, for instance, reluctant to flush out a congressman making passes at pages, well, you should be backpedaling on Election Day. Run on a higher moral plane, and appreciate that the American people holds you to that standard.
Embrace gridlock. Not a bad word, gridlock. It means things stay pretty much the same and, given the domestic possibilities with liberals running the committees, that is not bad. Heretofore President Bush wasn't exactly moving the cultural agenda forward. So, nothing has really changed. Also, remember that presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton will be part of a gridlock Senate, and she has had her feminine pedestal stolen from her by the new most-important-woman-on-the-Hill Nancy Pelosi. Hard to successfully run for president as a New York liberal in the first place, but especially difficult from this diminished position.
Clench your teeth and listen, real good. Which means the biggest challenge for the opposition for the next two years is having to listen to the shrill and not infrequently bitter Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Her San Francisco-style gavel now rules the House. Keep your ears open to Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan; a Banking Committee (Financial Services) chair, Barney Frank of Massachusetts; the Ways and Means Committee led by Charles B. Rangel of New York; and the Energy and Commerce leadership of John D. Dingell of Michigan.
Tall order, this listening mandate, but nothing should more quickly encourage those on the cultural and economic right to invigorate themselves.
The loss of this election should be good for the GOP. If they change. Really, truly, change.
Matt Friedeman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Respond to this column at his blog at "EvangelismToday.blogspot.com."
More columns by Matt Friedeman