“We did not just lose our majority. We lost our way.”
That was Mike Pence talking in the wake of last Tuesday’s election. He has represented Indiana’s 6th District since 2000, and he was re-elected last week to a fourth term. Friday, he will be on the ballot for the post of Minority Leader in the 110th Congress.
He’s one of the clearest thinkers on Capitol Hill, and his post-election vision statement ought to be required reading for each and every conservative lawmaker.
Critics may call the election a referendum on Iraq or a reaction to various scandals, but Pence sees something else: a political party that, for all the good it has accomplished, strayed from its principles. “Somewhere along the way we lost our willingness to fight for limited government, fiscal discipline, traditional values and reform,” Pence said. “And I believe that millions of our most ardent supporters figured this out.”
Did the political scandals inflict some damage? Certainly. According to Pence, though, “the real scandal in Washington, D.C., is runaway federal spending.” Which, he reminds us, is a dramatic reversal of what brought many conservatives to power in 1994:
“After 1994, we were a Majority committed to a balanced federal budget, entitlement reform and advancing the principles of a limited federal government. In recent years, our Majority voted to expand the federal government’s role in education by nearly 100 percent, created the largest new entitlement in 40 years, and pursued spending policies that created record deficits, national debt and rampant earmark spending.
“This was not in the Contract with America. Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people did not quit on the Contract with America -- we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our government and our most dedicated supporters.”
Pence echoed this message at a meeting with conservative bloggers held at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. He also laid out his top two priorities if he is elected Minority Leader. The first is “to challenge Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and her big-government colleagues at every turn.” Conservatives will face an aggressive liberal agenda, he predicted, and they therefore should be “cheerfully pugilistic” -- a phrase he used twice to indicate a need to vigorously oppose big-government lawmakers, but to do so constructively.