But it is not just the fresh-faced reformers who are talking about returning the Party of Reagan to its roots. Indeed, Blunt, who many on the outside have argued against because of his involvement with Republican betrayals like the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003, is talking the talk as well. In a speech at The Heritage Foundation this week, Blunt agreed that the Republican Party had wandered off the reservation. “We’ve often become defenders rather than challengers of business as usual,” Blunt told conservatives. “We’ve failed to create a culture of less but better government.”
Blunt noted the vast expansion of the federal government after passage of the No Child Left Behind bill and admitted his complicity. “I voted for that bill,” said Blunt, “when I did that, I violated one of my basic political beliefs that elementary and secondary education should be the responsibility of moms and dads and local school districts.”
Unlike Blunt, Boehner does not have as long a history in GOP leadership to defend. But he too has acknowledged the mess his party is in. “Our voters stopped thinking of us as the party of principle because we lost our commitment to and confidence in our core principles,” wrote Boehner in a letter to colleagues this week. “Somehow, we grew to accept the notion that we were entitled to continued majority control, instead of having to constantly earn it.”
So when Republican members of the House of Representatives gather in the old Cannon House Office building on Friday, they will be presented with a spate of candidates who largely agree on the direction in which the Party needs to head. But the deciding factor will be this: Does the Republican conference think that a fresh start is needed? And if so, do they think that means new leaders are needed as well?
If you ask the conservative challengers, their answer is simple: A fresh start requires fresh faces.
Speaking to a group of supporters this week, Mike Pence explained that he is not running because he thinks any of the current leadership failed in the 109th Congress. Pence said Boehner took on a “thankless task” in the 109th. But he made clear that he was running “not because I think I am a better man than either John Boehner or Joe Barton, but … because I believe I might just be the best man for the job. … To restore confidence in our commitment to those Reagan ideals we would do well to bring new faces and new voices to bear on the challenges we will face in the 110th Congress.”
Tim Chapman is the Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com
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