Governor's Mansion, Baton Rouge, La., Jan. 7, 2009
Q. What lessons do you think Republicans should learn from the last two disastrous -- for them -- election cycles?
A. There are at least three lessons that immediately jump out at me. The first is that the party must consistently do what it says. You can't be the party of fiscal discipline and tolerate the kind of spending that our party has accepted in the last several years, especially in Washington. Our actions have to match our rhetoric. If the Democrats had proposed many of the spending initiatives and projects that Republicans ended up approving, we would have been the first to criticize them. It isn't just earmarks. Look at some of the discretionary spending increases in Washington. We can't be the party of fiscal discipline when we're tolerating and approving the kinds of spending we've seen at least the last eight years.
Secondly, we've got to consistently oppose corruption in our own party. It's not enough to make excuses that 'the other side does it'. Quite simply put, if the other party had been guilty of some of the things we were accused of doing ... the week before this presidential election, you have our most senior Republican senator (Ted Stevens of Alaska) convicted of federal charges. You look at the Duke Cunningham scandal; you look at Mark Foley, there's a cumulative impact. We've got to be a party of ideas. We can't be the party of "no." We've got to be a party that's unafraid of our conservative principles. I'm not one who looks at these election results and says we should abandon what we stand for. I don't think the country woke up one day and suddenly said we are a much more liberal country. I think the country back in 2006 fired the Republican Party and with cause. With all due respect to Nancy Pelosi, I don't think the country woke up and said we want Nancy Pelosi as speaker . I really think the Democrats, to their credit, made the 2006 election cycle on Republicans and the voters rightly said, 'we don't like what we see."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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