While it lacks the panache of Patrick Henry’s impassioned “give me liberty” cry (which the Virginian borrowed from Cato, incidentally), the reality is that Republicans looking for a modus operandi in Washington next year could do a lot worse than “give us gridlock.”
In fact, gridlock is really all that they can promise voters – at least for now.
While reaping historic gains in the U.S. House, the tea party-fueled GOP wave that broke with such force across the country last week was necessarily limited in its breadth. After all, the names of President Barack Obama and nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Senate did not appear on the ballot. Also roughly the same number of Democratic and Republican Senate seats were up for grabs in 2010 – which limited GOP gains in the upper chamber (along with the fact that Democrats were defending seats in liberal strongholds like California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Vermont).
Meanwhile in West Virginia – where a Republican hasn’t been elected to a full-term in the U.S. Senate since 1942 – the victorious Democratic candidate won his race by running a TV ad in which he picked up a rifle and literally shot a hole through Obama’s proposed “cap and trade” energy tax hike.
“I’ll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets,” Gov. Joe Manchin said in the ad, sounding more like a Tea Party protester than a twice-elected Democratic governor.
In 2012, the stakes will be much higher. Not only must Obama himself face the voters but 23 Democratic Senate seats must be defended – several of them in GOP-leaning states like Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia.
Having slammed the brakes on the socialist overreaching of Obama and his Congressional allies in 2010 – in the next election, limited government advocates must commence the long-overdue national U-turn back to fiscal sanity, individual liberty, free markets and constitutionally-limited government.
Michael Tanner – a senior fellow at the Cato Institute – has been an instrumental voice in dissecting the fiscal betrayal that led to the GOP’s “power loss” in 2006 and 2008. In analyzing last week’s elections, Tanner described Republicans as being like the “proverbial dog that caught the car, wondering what they should do next.”
That may be overstating things a bit given the extent to which Democrats still control the levers of power in Washington, but Tanner does offer some sage advice for the incoming Republican House Majority.