Paul Jacob

Rep. Raul Labrador, a newcomer to Washington, reminded the crowds at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) of the current context: “We weren’t elected because the American people love Republicans. We were elected because the American people love Republican principles.”

Not to throw cold water on a sentiment whose intent I can only applaud, still, it’s hard not to offer a challenge: What principles? Craven accommodation to the military-industrial complex? Empty “limited government” windbaggery? Inertia?

The American people do respect many of the principles that have become commonly bandied-about in American politics, associated with the Republicans since Reagan or before. But they also have come to understand that Republicans are politicians, and “principles” don’t mean as much as the habits of Capitol Hill.

Republican politicians can be easily portrayed as hypocrites — talking “less government” while always giving us more. The greatest successes of so-called Republican “fiscal conservatism” have been intermittent attempts to restrain the rate of government growth. Actual balanced budgets have only been approached when rule was shared with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. And the tech boom was in swing.

If united government (House, Senate and executive branch all in the hands of one political party) shows a party’s true heart — as I think it does — then we now know what the motivating principle of the two parties is: More government. When Democrats got into power, they worked mightily and against the expressed wishes of the majority of Americans to install a huge new “entitlement.” They replaced a stretch of united government under the Republicans, who had managed to radically increase both the size and scope of the federal superstate, having added their own new “entitlement.”

This new entitlement spending must be stacked on top of past, unpaid-for promises of entitlement spending. And growing government spending in other areas, added on top of two land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Labrador calls “Republican principles” might better be called, simply, “common-sense American principles,” since they fit so nicely with the ideas expressed by the nation’s founders, if not the bulk of the founders’ heirs and assigns.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.