The Way Forward

Rich Tucker
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Posted: Mar 11, 2006 12:05 AM
This is no way to run a Republic.

One of history’s lessons is that single-party government doesn’t work. Look no further than Mexico, where the P.R.I. ran the show for most of a century. Its poor governance is among the reasons millions of Mexicans are streaming across the U.S. border today.

Yet the United States is dangerously close to becoming a one party state, too. This year’s congressional elections could cement that party in power, which would probably allow it to move even further away from its traditional conservative principles.

Of course, that may not happen. Things look grim right now for the GOP. A poll last month from the Pew Research Center reported Democrats lead Republicans 50 percent to 41 percent nationwide in a generic ballot.

But it’s a long way to Nov. 7, and it’s difficult to beat something with nothing. And nothing -- or at least, no ideas -- is exactly what the left has. By design, apparently.

“Democratic leaders had set a goal of issuing their legislative manifesto by November 2005 to give voters a full year to digest their proposals,” The Washington Post reported on March 7. But that deadline has slipped. Now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promises the plan will be finished in “a matter of weeks.” Don’t hold your breath.

At a recent meeting of Democratic governors, Pelosi outlined the six key issues and ideas she thinks the election will hinge on. Sen. Minority Harry Reid had earlier done the same thing -- but each offered different proposals. “I don’t think we have a message,” one of the governors noted.

But who needs a message when you’ve got anger on your side? “It is self-evident now that the same Republican members of Congress who put America up for sale have neither the ability nor the credibility to lead us in a new direction, and they shouldn’t even try,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., told CNN. The plan right now is “to allow Democratic attacks to hold the stage with minimum distraction,” as the Post put it.

Good luck with that.

The left is ignoring the lessons of 1998, when Republicans hated President Clinton and assumed that -- if they could prove he was corrupt -- they’d clean up in the midterm elections. That plan didn’t work. The GOP majority in the House was trimmed, Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced out and Clinton survived to serve out his term.

If that history repeats itself, the Democratic complaints of corruption won’t be enough to end Republican control of the House. And, since Democrats are bereft of ideas, it’s difficult to see where the party would go after November. As I wrote last summer, “If Paul Hackett, Robert Byrd and Cindy Sheehan are the future of the Democratic Party, it won’t be long before it completely disappears.”

Hate doesn’t play well over the long haul. Only ideas endure. So, with the Dems in disarray, that second party we need is going to come from the right. It’s time for conservatives to retake the Republican Party.

Today’s Republican leaders are far too eager to buy votes with our tax money. Federal spending is one third higher today than in 2001. Congress passed the largest entitlement program in decades and added it to Medicare (which was already underwater). Earmarks and pork barrel spending weigh down virtually every measure from homeland security to highway funding. Luckily, conservatives have a blueprint we can work from as we attempt to reassert our principles: The just-published “Getting America Right” by Ed Feulner and Doug Wilson. The authors outline six questions that citizens should ask before lawmakers enact policy.

• Is it the government’s business?

• Does the measure promote self-reliance?

• Is it responsible?

• Does it make us more prosperous?

• Does it make us safer?

• Does it unify us?

Any measure that fails on one of these questions, they say, should be rejected.

The beauty of their questions is that, while they’re simple, they also provide a framework for conservative ideas. Obviously a new Medicare entitlement is going to fail, because it’s not the government’s business to provide drugs to everyone. Clearly a 33 percent jump in spending is going to fail because it’s not responsible. And so forth.

“As long as governments secure fundamental rights, they deserve popular support,” Feulner and Wilson write. “But should they betray their great purpose the people retain the right to alter their government.”

It’s time for conservatives to exercise that right and stand up for our ideas. If that damages the single governing party, so be it. We’ll have a healthier republic when there’s a healthy debate over how we should be governed -- a debate conservatives know we’ll win, because we’ve got all the good ideas on our side.