Congressman Kirk and GOP

Hugh Hewitt
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Posted: Jul 11, 2009 8:55 PM

Senate Democrats want to tax soda. House Democrats want to tax carbon and higher incomes. California Democrats want to tax everything.

A half year into the Obama era and the obfuscation of Campaign 2008 is no longer necessary to the presdient or his party, and thus the left is pushing every tax it can conceive of to pay for trillions of dollars of new proposals.

Republicans have begun to fight back and each week brings greater and greater clarity to the debate in D.C. The Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda cannot be disguised as anything other than a massive expansion of government that can only be supported through skyrocketing tax rates on all Americans.

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This reality has broken through on a number of levels, and it is especially obvious in the debate surrounding "cap-and-trade," or "cap-and-tax-and-tax-and-tax" as it ought to be known. An American electorate watching national unemployment creep to the double-digit level already prevailing in California is not interested in alarmism leading to unilateral deindustrialization which is the certain result of the Obama-Pelosi-Waxman proposals on climate change which passed the House this month. The developing powers delivered a blunt "no thank you" to the president in Italy, and now the Illinois Republican party is sending a similar message to every Republican in every state though the messenger is Congressman Mark Kirk.

Congressman Kirk was widely expected to be the Republican candidate for the United States Senate Seat presently held by Roland Burris and formetly held by President Obama. Kirk is a center-right Republican, but the vast majority of the state's Republican activists, including most of its conservatives, are hungry for a winner and willing to set aside differences over many issues in order to field a competitive candidate. Congressman Kirk's path to the nomination seemed secure, and a national appeal for donors would have resonated.

Then the congressman voted for the Obama-Pelosi-Waxman carbon tax, and Kirk's campaign began to unravel. Stunned Republicans in Illinois and across the country asked what could he have been thinking? The law is so manifestly poorly drawn and the economic effects so obviously disastrous that this single vote triggered a revolt in the land of Lincoln, and at this writing the congressman appears poised to withdraw from the Senate contest, his clear path to the GOP nomination suddenly imperiled by the word that GOP Illinois State Chairman Andy McKenna might contend for the job.

Whether Kirk remains in the race or not, the message from the episode is clear: The GOP base will not quickly support any candidate who supports the massive tax hikes required by the Obama-Pelosi-Waxman bill. There is widespread agreement that concern over climate change cannot justify a crippling of the American economy or confiscatory taxes on all energy use. Rhetoric about the environment, in other words, cannot substitute for a party-defining commitment to limited government and lower taxes. Republicans who bolt on this issue will not be easily forgiven and their decision not quickly forgotten. This isn't a "big tent" issue in other words. The Obama-Pelosi-Waxman bill is not a "free vote" because it is so awful in ints impact and implications.

Whether Congressman Kirk decides to run, and if so, whether he will recover his momentum will not reverse the message of this week: The GOP is indeed and ought to remain a very big tent, but there are exits to even very large tents. Freedom-and-growth destroying expansions of the federal government cannot be part of the Republican agenda, and those who support such deeply misguided and radical plans cannot expect to carry the standard for the party in high profile campaigns.