Somewhere in the files of The Heritage Foundation there is a photo of President Clinton holding up a Heritage report for photographers to see.
The report, issued in 1993 at the height of anti-Clinton mania, recommends Republicans refrain from playing politics with the president’s appointments because presidents have the right to appoint the people he chooses. And they have that right because elections have consequences.
That observation is as fresh today as it was then. We bemoan “corporate control” of our politicians and the coarseness of debate. But in fact, government today is as transparent and effective and responsive to electoral results as it ever has been. We’re where we are now because our elections have had real consequences.
In 2006, the electorate had soured on the Bush administration. In some parts of moderate Fairfax County, Va., his hard positives were down to 5 percent. Republicans took a pounding that night, then another two years later that gave Democrats the presidency and near-veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.
We’re very much still feeling the consequences of those elections. Democrats used their power to push through ObamaCare, Cash for Clunkers, the bailout of GM and an $800 billion stimulus package.
Voters responded with the “shellacking” of 2010. They went a step further on ObamaCare and called for a redo of sorts because of the sleazy way Congress went about passing it. So, instead of steaming toward full enactment in 2014, the president’s signature legislative accomplishment is stalled in a haze of electorally popular lawsuits.
Experts say those lawsuits will lead to a Supreme Court case that will be decided by one justice who will rule based in large part on how popular the law is when the decision comes before him. Seriously. If you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who are happy with your current healthcare and truly want to keep it, let Justice Kennedy know.
But they did more than repudiate the Democrats in 2010. They elected a Congress in which a majority were not simply Republicans but conservative Republicans with clear orders from their constituents to reduce the size and reach of government and to hold the line on taxes.
The debt-ceiling battle was their first big chance to carry out those orders.
The House expressed its true will when it passed Cut, Cap and Balance – its first and best attempt to avoid the debt-ceiling disaster. When the Senate rejected that legislation, Speaker John Boehner tried to solve the problem the old-fashioned way – by negotiating a go-along-to-get-along deal with the White House.
When members learned that deal included tax hikes, they made clear they wouldn’t support Boehner, and he was forced to walk away. A deal eventually did get done – one that left both sides unsatisfied, the problems unsolved and the true outcome uncertain. But that deal did not include tax hikes.
This proved Tea Party-approved lawmakers now control a majority of congressional seats. Not establishment Republicans … if they were still in charge, Boehner’s deal would’ve gone through … but candidates who have promised not to raise taxes and to get serious about reducing the size and scope of government. This is an enormous accomplishment for a political movement that didn’t exist before 2008.
It also provides an historic opportunity. Democratic overreach pushed voters into their arms, and the credit downgrade on top of economic unrest here and in Europe provides an opportunity to keep them there through the 2012 elections. If conservatives prevail then, they will have a chance to remake America in a variety of ways.
They can repeal ObamaCare IF they win the presidency. They can enact a flat tax … Stanley Greenberg, the Clintons’ veteran pollster, says liberals are open to this idea as well.
They can go big on entitlement reform and farm policy and even consider eliminating departments or reducing them to agency status. They can reduce corporate and capital gains taxes and get some of that $1.5 trillion in corporate reserves off the sideline and into the game.
It’s all doable. It’s all passable. The window may not be open for long, but it will be open wide. And voters will reward bold action. The left will complain, call for “compromise” and claim conservatives have gone beyond their mandate.
But it won’t matter. It is as Heritage said in that paper in 1993 … elections have consequences.