Many are preoccupied speculating about the magnitude of the impending Republican electoral victory, but I don't think it's putting the cart before the horse to caution that we also ought to be concerned -- now -- about what Republicans will do if they do recapture control.
The Republicans' power will obviously be limited, even if they emerge with majorities in both chambers, because Obama will remain in charge of the coequal executive branch. So how should the GOP proceed?
The reflexive Beltway response is that it ought to compromise with Obama to produce legislation. But there are a number of problems with that premise.
Contrary to his self-portrayal as post-partisan, Obama is a dogmatic ideologue who is so determined to "fundamentally change" America that he will remain on point, even if it means relegating himself to one term. He might pretend to move to the center, but his life's mission, from which he will not be deterred, is to move America way leftward.
But assume, for argument's sake, that Obama will approach the new Republican majorities in an authentic spirit of compromise. What then?
Well, how does one compromise with a statist without moving the country further toward statism? Take health care, for instance. We were already well on our way to a government-controlled system before Obama came along, and previous government intervention mostly mucked things up. So was there any compromise from the left to implement free market reforms? No, liberals set about to fully nationalize it.
Try the welfare state. Everyone acknowledged the system needed to be reformed. Black childhood poverty and illegitimacy were soaring, and the welfare reform measures of the '90s began to curb those trends. But Obama would have none of it. He slipped provisions into the stimulus bill reversing welfare reform. That's compromise Obama-style. If socialism is messing things up, give us more of it. If market forces are ameliorating problems, give us less of them. Compromising with a statist yields, at best, statism light, which will eventuate in statism stout.
It's also not necessarily true that passing legislation -- just any legislation -- is healthy for the republic. Washington doesn't have to be busy in order to improve the lives of American citizens.
Unfortunately, though, Washington has wrought such destruction that remedial legislation is imperative to fix the damage. Who says conservatives oppose change? Of course we demand change when the status quo spells national suicide.
Seeing as Republicans presumably won't be able to pass such remedial legislation while Obama's president, what should they do? Inquiring minds demand an answer.
I believe they should initiate comprehensive reforms -- along the lines of Rep. Paul Ryan's road map. I don't mean to endorse his road map in toto without thoroughly studying it; I mean to say that we need big reforms rolling back government, severely cutting discretionary spending and seriously tackling entitlement reform. Republicans should do this even anticipating Obama will veto their legislation.
They will then have remained true to their mandate and to conservative principles and kept faith with their base. They'll be able to go into the 2012 elections with their heads held high and offering a clear alternative to Obamaism. Besides, complete legislative gridlock is infinitely superior to compromise en route to Obama-statism-light, which would not only advance statism but also unleash the righteous wrath of the conservative grass roots, who might then form a third party, possibly reducing the GOP to permanent irrelevance.
Conservatives' concerns about what Republicans will do if they emerge victorious are not idle fretting. The American Spectator's estimable Jeffrey Lord reported this week that Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told "high-dollar donors" that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues have no intention of repealing Obamacare, only repealing the "bad parts" of the law -- as if this monstrosity can be sanitized of its pernicious elements.
Corker also told the donors they needn't worry about the incoming class of "crazier Republicans." If these reports are true, we know all we need to know about the ruling class, including many establishment Republicans.
Meanwhile, Sen. McConnell told the National Journal that even after their victory, Republicans will not control the government. True enough, but he continued. "We need to have a humble, grateful response about this election," he said. "Incidentally, there is no polling data that suggests (the voters) love us."
Well, let me humbly suggest to the senator that a humble, grateful response would be to attempt to govern according to the tidal wave that brings the GOP back to the dance. Humility suggests conformity to the nation's wishes, not abject compromise with the president, who has agitated them into street activism to a historically unprecedented degree.
Yes, senator, be humble and govern in accordance with the people's will and they might just begin to love you after all. At least, it will be a start.