Change the GOP Should Believe In

Posted: May 01, 2009 12:01 AM

It was a mere four years ago that the Republican Party governed -- and I assure you I employ the word "govern" reluctantly -- every level of federal government. Few experts construed this to mean that the Democratic Party was forever irrelevant or a rotting cadaver.

What were the future apparatchiks up to as Republicans were busy breaking every promise, crime and piggy bank they could get their paws on?

Well, they did what all enlightened individuals should do: They found themselves. They started blogging. Getting angry. Raising money. Marching. Caring. They began purging impostors and crafting catchy platitudes that the non-ideological voter could digest.

Today a comparable spontaneous grass-roots effort has materialized. This one celebrates free market principles rather than statism. Not surprisingly, there is also a sudden shift in perception. The once-glorified citizen activist is now nothing more than a radical slack-jawed proletariat yokel.

The "tea parties" are ridiculed -- the participants demeaned and falsely portrayed as venomous radicals. As we all know by now, deniers of hope and change, by definition, are extremists.

Hey, times change. You have to grow up. Now that longtime liberal Sen. Arlen Specter has defected from the Republican Party, lots of smart people are imploring conservatives to stop scaring away innocent moderates.

It's funny because in 2006, when Democrats purged Joe Lieberman for his traitorous position on a single issue, few know-it-all Beltway types scolded the Democratic Party for its ideological rigidity; fewer moaned about the shrinking size of the tent; and fewer still demanded that Dems be more reasonable and conform with the ruling party in the White House.

Yet Specter, rather than admit that the only way he can win an election is as a Democrat, has perpetuated the following mythical narrative: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent," the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat explained, "the Republican Party has moved far to the right." (All of a sudden, Ronald Reagan provided a big tent? Who knew?)

Now, it is true that fiscally conservative ideas are as popular with voters as they are with Specter … but a lurch to the right? Not on economics. There was no greater friend to expansion of government than former President George W. Bush. I know that because anytime I mention the massive deficit, debt and regulation with which Obama already has saddled us, a helpful Democrat appropriately points out that Bush started it -- which apparently makes it all tolerable.

As the left continues to lecture conservatives about their political future -- because, after all, Dems have been fully in charge for more than 100 days now -- let's recount a couple of facts: The Iraq war was supported by more than 60 percent of Americans. Polls showed wide-ranging support for the Patriot Act. Jimmy Carter was once president.

What's beloved today may be reviled tomorrow. Americans are a fickle bunch.

It's possible that voters who opposed a "stimulus" plan that only stimulated the colossal growth of government will not be the extremists tomorrow. It's possible that citizens who protest against the nationalization of the auto and banking industries will be proved right one day. Who knows? Those nutty protestors with their crazy opposition to the socialization of health care and energy policy may look prescient someday.

Granted, principles won't win you elections. (Just ask Specter.) You need big tents -- and cliches about big tents. But if you don't have cause or purpose, what's the point of winning anyway?