Ideas are the power of any political party. In 1980, Ronald Reagan took advantage of the public's general frustration, and the high economic "misery index," to usher in bold new ideas about the economy and to rebuild the national defense.
Newt Gingrich's "Class of 1994" didn't win Congress based on Gingrich's charm -- or, back then, the lack thereof. He did it with his Contract with America, a fresh and fleshed-out policy agenda.
So now we must ponder whether the GOP's battered leadership will embrace bold and inventive new ideas, or simply tread water.
Readers of this column know that I have been following the unique and exciting proposal in Congress known as "The Fair Tax." Another long explanation of the proposal is not needed. Let me simply note that a well-conceived consumption tax could end the income tax as we know it.
I find it interesting that while a book about the tax has soared to the top of the New York Times best seller list, the proposed tax seems to be generating little excitement in Washington.
Interesting, yes. Surprising, no. Congress and Washington aren't places to embrace new and needed ideas. And it's no secret that the very existence of many Washington trade associations and governmental affairs firms hinges on their ability to win tax breaks for their clients. If there's suddenly no convoluted tax code, there are also no big fees for them.
However reluctantly they do it, both lobbyists and politicians must come to grips with the fact that there is a hurricane-weary and highly skeptical public outside of the D.C. Beltway that is expecting something good to come out of Congress and the White House.
This needed breakthrough becomes an even steeper uphill fight when rightly or wrongly indicted GOP leaders combine with head-in-the-sand bureaucrats like former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown to leave the public even more jaded than before.
As noted, Georgia's governor took a political gamble on fuel supplies that could help him or hurt him. But at least he tried something new.
Perhaps Congress should try the same thing and embrace new ideas. Just worrying about campaign funds can cause real trouble. If you don't believe me, ask Tom DeLay.