Jonah Goldberg

Conservative Republicans have learned a painful lesson in recent years. It turns out power isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Republican control of the White House and Congress hasn't resulted in lights being turned off in Cabinet agencies or enormous garage sales of office furniture. Instead, Uncle Sam is still looking like Marlon Brando at the end of his career: bloated, sweaty and slow-moving. The GOP has become a Brando-like parody of its former self, reading its lines about cutting government without plausibility or passion.

The rub of it, from a conservative perspective, is that Republican control of the House doesn't equal conservative control. It may not seem that way to liberals who think Joe Lieberman is right wing, but from the vantage point of the conservative movement, GOP dominance has been an enormous disappointment - good judicial appointments and tax cuts notwithstanding. Our hopeful joy upon the 1994 takeover of Congress was like finding a new pony by the Christmas tree. Now it's more like finding it slumped over dead on top of the presents.

This may be why some of us are contemplating the possible, if not probable, Democratic takeover of the House without too much dread. (Losing the Senate would be something else.) Yes, the thought of Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and John Conyers Jr., Henry Waxman and Alcee Hastings as potential committee chairmen does cause an involuntary gag reflex and a shudder for the future of the republic. And yes, the image of all those Democratic staffers returning to Capitol Hill like the marauding caddies during open-pool hour in "Caddyshack" does stew the bowels.

But what would actually happen? Well, the first thing we'd hear would be the metaphorical snap of the rubber glove as the House prepared to investigate the executive branch with a zeal and thoroughness normally reserved for prison guards who enjoy looking for contraband just a little too much. Subpoenas would fly. Perhaps printers would churn out bills of impeachment.

But as ugly as some of this might be, the silver lining would be fairly thick. First, as a matter of simple gitchy-goo good government, one has to admit that the executive branch could use an independent audit. Amid the orgy of spending and deal-cutting, the GOP-controlled House has largely abdicated its oversight responsibilities. Someone's got to check the receipts.

Second, as a matter of rank partisanship, letting the Democrats run wild could be good for both the GOP and conservatives, as my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru recently pointed out in the New York Times. If you think Americans are itching for change now, wait until they break into hives after two more years of Republican monopoly on power.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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