We’re the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For
With about three weeks before the mid-term elections, Republicans look poised to make significant gains in both the U.S. House and Senate. Most of the major polls are now projecting that the House will return to Republican control; the only question being, by what margin? There is even the remote possibility that Republicans can retake control of the Senate, a scenario that seemed laughable only three months ago. Governors’ races across the country are looking very favorable for the GOP as well, as are the state legislatures. In short, it seems that the predictions of the death of conservatism, and the Carvillian prophecy of forty years of Democrat rule, may have been a bit premature. In fact, it appears that not only will Democrats fall short of the forty year mark; they will fall short of the forty month mark.
For Republicans and conservatives across the nation, certainly this is an encouraging time. Less than two years ago it looked as if we would be wandering for years in the political Sahara, but now America is behind us once again. Or are they?
With all of the rosy news flowing in for Republicans, it would be easy to believe their own hype. However, I would submit that if Republicans allow themselves to buy into this mantra, then they are setting themselves up for failure just as the Democrats have done. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans lost 55 House seats and saw the Democrats take a 61-39 lead in the Senate (with self-proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont caucusing with the Democrats). A number of factors led to these losses, but in large part it came down to a handful of issues; weariness of George W. Bush and eight years of war, an unending stream of revelations of corruption among elected Republicans, and out of control spending.
In essence, Republicans suffered heavy losses because they campaigned on conservative principles (limited government, low taxes, strong national defense), but in practice they governed as Democrats. Under Bush the size and cost of government grew substantially more than it had under Clinton (even if elevated Defense/Homeland Security spending is removed from the equation), and Republicans passed the largest entitlement expansion since the Great Society programs of LBJ with Medicare Part D. They passed No Child Left Behind (an expansion of the federal government’s role in education a mere decade after the Republicans promised to eliminate the federal Department of Education under the Contract With America), as well as the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection and Free Speech Suppression Act (commonly known as “Campaign Finance Reform”), which may be the most egregious violation of constitutionally-protected free speech rights since the Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by John Adams.
They passed the PATRIOT Act, components of which may have been necessary to protect us, but a law which gave government a tremendous amount of power to pry into the telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records of U.S. citizens while reducing the restrictions on government provided under the 4th Amendment (regardless of which party is in power, citizens should be wary of this level of government power and require strict oversight). They refused to wean themselves from the addiction of pork barrel spending, and they failed to adequately secure the borders. They got caught up in sex scandals and bribery scandals.
In short, they abandoned conservative principles and became so corrupt that their base was demoralized and abandoned them. They paid a severe price at the polls.
Enter Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. In the course of two elections the American people had so thoroughly repudiated the Republican Party that it is easy to see why the Democrats saw their gains as a mandate to push a liberal agenda. They failed to understand that their victories were not an embracing of their agenda, but punishment for wayward Republicans.
With a messianic president entering office with soaring approval ratings, plus massive majorities in both houses of the legislature, Pelosi and Reid began to check off their wish list. First, a $787 billion “stimulus” that failed to stimulate, but which did pay for a cornucopia of liberal agenda items that had long failed to make it through the normal legislative process. They passed more bailouts, took over entire sectors of private industry and passed a very unpopular health care bill. Now they are paying the price for such over-reaching.
Personally, I am not yet convinced that the upcoming slaughter at the polls of Democrats is an embrace of the Republican Party. It is simply the pendulum swinging back in the other direction. Americans are stunned by the type of “change” that Obama and the Democrats have forced on them, and whether Republicans deserve to be back in power or not, the Democrats must be removed from power to stop the bloodletting of our economy. A decade of trillion dollar deficits will sober you up after drinking too much of the Hopenchange Kool-Aid.
Republicans should still be enthusiastic, but it should be tempered with a dose of reality. According to an October 1st Rasmussen poll, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats dropped to 34.6%, a record low since polling began. However, only 33.1% claim to be Republicans. Contrast that with a Gallup poll in June in which 42% of Americans described themselves as conservative, but only 20% as liberal.
What this indicates is the America is still a center-right country, with 80% of us self-proclaimed as conservative or moderate. Yet the Republican Party can only manage 33%. That shows that while Americans may be voting for them in large numbers this year, they are still wary of them and Republicans still have a lot of work to do to regain that trust.
Republicans seem to be understanding that to an extent, which is why they recently released the “Pledge to America”, which was a watered down version of the 1994 Contract With America. In it they promise to repeal ObamaCare (a good start), return spending levels to 2008 levels (an acceptable start, but one which still left us with several hundred billion in deficits), cut off further stimulus spending, “put government on the path to a balanced budget”, and so forth.
These things are a good beginning, but Republicans should not let themselves think that this is enough to placate a very angry electorate livid at out of control government. This is the political equivalent of me telling my wife that I promise to go to work every day, not get drunk and thrown in jail, and that I won’t cheat on her. Sure, these are positive things, but really, this is the minimum expectation which has been set with our relationship. If you want to get me excited you’d better bring more than that.
America is dealing with some very serious problems, and they are about to give Republicans another shot at power. If they want to maintain that power for more than one election cycle, they had best understand that America has reached a paradigm shift in politics. Americans long dormant are waking up and realizing that their apathy and detachment has allowed the kids to make a wreck of the place. Obama said during his campaign that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In a few weeks both parties will learn the hard way that the waiting is over, we are back, and we are ready to clean house.