Now that the elections are over, will the Republicans go back to their old ways and be just as bad as they were before -- just as awful as the Democrats?
They can't afford to. The problem with the Republicans in the years following the 1994 "Contract with America" elections was that they needed to be certain things but weren't, needed to move to higher plateaus but didn't. In 1994, Republicans won as the party of ideas and reform. Following the election, they needed to govern better and be better as individuals. They failed at both.
Why will they be any different now?
The traditional equation has changed, and the Teapartiers have a lock on them. The Republicans face a situation similar to European parliamentary systems. They and the Teapartiers are both minority enterprises, and as neither could run and win without the other, so neither can govern without the other. Together, they form a majority. If the Republicans revert to their prior form, the Teapartiers will yank their support and soon the Republican hand will fall from whatever levers of power it pulls.
WHERE is President Obama in all this?
During the election campaigns, Democratic candidates, for the most, part wanted nothing to do with him, wanted him to stay away -- ran from him like kids freaked by ghosts on Halloween. Most wanted nothing to do with him because they felt he was dragging down their party -- and their campaigns along with it.
(But this is a president who entered office on such a political high.
That was then. Obama's dismal approval ratings (mid-40s) stand after just two years where W's stood after five. As Obama deployed the absurdity of blaming the Republicans for his failures before the mid-term elections -- with lopsided Democratic majorities in both congressional houses -- so he will blame them even more during the next two years. The 2012 campaign season has started. Now may mark the beginning -- as well -- of the last 100 weeks of the Obamian presidency.
OK, so back to the Republicans: What should they do?
Obama said during the fall campaigns that he foresaw hand-to-hand combat with a Congress less to his liking. The Republicans must try to do what many of them said during their campaigns they would seek to do, inspired as they were by the Teapartiers. Things such as...
Slash spending. Reduce the deficit and the national debt.
Cut taxes -- or at least hold them down -- and seriously cogitate shifting to a flat tax. Move government out of the way, thereby ending wealth redistribution and promoting private-sector job creation. In addition....
Stabilize the dollar. End earmarks (don't just talk about it -- do it). Also end the regulatory spoils system that undermines the free-market system.
And some personal preferences: Re-up the manned space program (yes, go back to the Moon and beyond). Seal the border. Establish universal civilian service for all the nation's young between 18 and 25, with a front-end military component. Lay off Israel. Lay it on in Afghanistan. And tell the Iranians to vacate the premises of their nuclear facilities because -- in the name of peace -- our jets are on their way.
DO ALL that?
At least try to. At least get the ball rolling. Oh, and repeal ObamaCare.
The Republicans can't just go and repeal it. It's too late. Obama will veto any repeal measure reaching his desk.
But the voters emphatically oppose ObamaCare, and the Teapartiers -- particularly -- want it dead and buried. So the Republicans can deny funding for key agencies tasked with implementing it. They can refuse to approve enabling legislation. And then, with a Republican successor to Obama, they can move on to actual repeal.
You seem to have it all figured out.
Hardly. Still, the elections have lessons to teach and suggest the way forward for the Republicans if they know what's good for them. The elections suggest the shape of things to come.
AND what is that "shape"?
The Teapartiers may be a startlingly sudden political phenomenon, but they are emphatically mainstream. Through them, via the classic concept of popular sovereignty, a majority silent too long has spoken at last. From its federal representatives, that majority wants -- perhaps above all -- candor. It embraces the time-tested concepts of....
In with The Truth and ethical behavior. Out with cynicism and I'll-get-mine. In with "inalienable rights." Out with the haughty satrapies of unlimited government. In with the notion that pols and bureaucrats work for the people, and out with the contrary notion that the people work for them. In with the Constitution and the Founding. Out with Harry Hopkins' deprecating dictum, "The people are too damned dumb to understand."
The people are not dumb --
Not at all. They're far smarter than the smug, sanctimonious elites who think the people are hopelessly extreme and just too yahoo -- and so disdain and ignore them. Early in the campaign season, the smugs' most detested feminist -- Sarah Palin -- gave us one of the year's most incisive insights. She rhetorically asked, "So how's that hopey, changey thing workin' out for ya?"
Now we know.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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