Ken Connor

If the election were held today, Barack Obama would be the new President of the United States of America. The latest Real Clear Politics average of national polls shows Obama ahead of McCain by nearly seven percentage points. It looks like the Democrats are going to have control of both the White House and Congress for the next four years.

And, mark it down, if there is a Democrat sweep, conservative Republicans will get the blame.

Counterfeit Conservatism Caused Collapse

The fact of the matter is, however, that President Bush and the Republicans who dominated Congress during most of his administration governed as anything but conservatives. Except during election season, it has been difficult to find any trace of conservative principles among incumbents within the Republican Party. During their tenure, Republican governance was characterized by out of control spending, record-setting earmarks, affirmative action programs for corporate wrongdoers, corrupt relations with special interests, and sexual scandal. While they often described themselves as "conservatives," their walk was very different from their talk.

The names voters associate with Republicans do not evoke visions of commitment to traditional conservative values: Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Tom Delay, Ted Stevens, Alberto Gonzalez, Boeing, Halliburton. Neither do the programs: No Child Left Behind, The Bridge to Nowhere, Amnesty for Illegals. During the period of Republican hegemony, no real ground was gained on reforming entitlements, no major effort was made to curb abortion (or even abortion funding), and the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product rose to a 50-year high!

Few Republicans in leadership in government during the past decade have been authentic conservatives. At best, they have been counterfeit conservatives, which no doubt accounts for why Republicans lost so many seats in 2006 and why they appear ready to lose more seats and the Presidency this November.

In the aftermath of the election, the Republican Party will undoubtedly have the time to engage in serious introspection. Hopefully, its leaders will come to understand that conservatism is not just a "label" or even a "movement." It is a way of life.

Principles of True Conservatism

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.