I never thought I would write these lines, especially one day after a blowout Republican election, but Harry Reid is right.
In my opinion, Reid is one of the worst senators in D.C., and Sharron Angle is the Senate candidate I most regret not seeing elected last night. (Tom Tancredo was the top gubernatorial candidate.) Harry’s views, goals, and methodology could hardly be more wrong. But he showed Tuesday night that he understood one salient fact every conservative should burn into his memory.
In his acceptance speech, Harry Reid said, “This race has been called, but the fight is far from over.” Then the former boxer fell back on an analogy that he knew well: “The bell that just rang isn’t the end of the fight; it’s the start of the next round.”
I wish conservatives knew this truth as well as Harry Reid does. In the elation following the greatest House shift since the 1930s, we must remember last night was one battle in a long and raging war to take back our movement, our party, and our country.
Yes, this midterm was so lopsided that Republicans won seats held by Democrats for 100 years. They toppled veteran Democratic leaders like House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton, the 17-term Congressman from Missouri, and the 14-term Democrat John Spratt of South Carolina. The number of Blue Dog Democrats has been cut in half, replaced with red state elephants. The Obama administration even failed in its efforts to buy the South Dakota House seat.
Controlling the House of Representatives will allow conservatives to halt the some aspects of Obama’s revolution. Republicans can kill a number of the president’s worst proposals by seeing they never get out of committee, or burying them with resounding no votes on the House floor. Since all spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, they can defund the left-wing gravy train of government grants that Democrats use to fund their political allies in the “private” sector. (Unfortunately, ACORN was only the tip of the iceberg.) And Congressman Darrell Issa now has the power and authority to undertake a wide-ranging series of investigations into Obama’s crimes.
But there is much work yet to be done.
Even if the entire Republican membership in the House hangs together on all these points without a single defection, it will represent at best a beginning to the restoration we must bring to our beloved Republic.
Some Republicans are eager to start “working together on the people’s priorities” with the one man most responsible for quashing the people’s wishes. If the GOP declares war on earmarks and defunds every grant that goes to radical left-wingers – a herculean housecleaning that would foment something akin to a political civil war on Capitol Hill – it would do nothing about the government’s massive overreach and intervention in the free market, its encroachment on our liberties, or the runaway spending hardwired into the system through our entitlement programs. Darrell Issa is already backing away from talk of impeachment. And Obama may be getting ready to rule by executive order beginning next year, allowing him to ignore Congress altogether.
Congress and the Republican Party have shifted to the Right; some outstanding people have been elected; and the nation has spoken unequivocally in its repudiation of Obama’s platform. But conservatives and Republicans still lack the power to enact their vision into law, which is the point of running for office. And too often, they lack the vision itself. Republicans lack the ability to move meaningful legislation through the Senate, much less override the inevitable presidential veto. The programs they must repeal – from Obamacare, to the UAW bailout, to Washington’s imperial czardom – are too much for one legislative session. To borrow Obama’s phrase: The ditch he dug is so deep, we are not going to recover from it overnight, even if we had the full legislative resources to do so. And we do not have them.
A 40-yard-rush is impressive, but if you start at the two yard line, you are still losing.
Conservatives must see retaking the House as the first part of a long-term strategy to uproot collectivism from our body politic before the entitlement culture foments an economic catastrophe. Time is limited, and this week’s gains can easily be reversed in two years.
Before conservatives can reform government and bring it back to the limited role intended by our Founding Fathers, they must bring a fully articulated conservative vision of government to every level of the federal government and a majority of our state houses.
And before they can do that, they must instill it as the philosophy of their own party.
Karl Rove greeted Christine O’Donnell’s defeat by “bearded Marxist” Chris Coons by saying it was “a lesson” for Tea Partiers to fall in line behind the Establishment. The real lesson is that inside-the-beltway Republicans have clawed their way up the ladder and clung to power so tightly that they will stop at nothing to maintain their hold. The Tea Party was supposed to be the new Christian Coalition – a well-meaning organization of principled people the GOP could cow into supporting Republicans hostile to their concerns. This election proves when conservatives show up at the polls, Republicans benefit all over the ticket.
This has not kept the insiders from resorting to “Republican cannibalism.” Its foremost victim, Christine O’Donnell, told Good Morning America Wednesday, “I think the only thing that really would have made a difference [in her election] is if the Delaware GOP had unified.” She noted it was not conservatives who refused to support the party. “In other areas, where the establishment Republican didn’t win their primary, the local Republican parties united right away,” she said. On CNN, she specified, “I think had Karl Rove immediately come out to support us, had the NRSC even helped us verbally, we could have closed the gap.”
She is far from the only target. Senators Kit Bond, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Lamar Alexander among others have blasted Sen. Jim DeMint for supporting Tea Party primary challengers. (He also supported the Republicans who defeated them.) Most recently, Politico has reported a host of Republican Party operatives have joined forces to stop Sarah Palin at all costs from becoming the party’s presidential nominee in 2012. An anonymous GOP insider described their furtive meetings as “a determined, focused Establishment effort…to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin.”
Before conservatives take back America, they will have to contend with their own party.
“A Second Chance”
The good news is the midterms produced up-and-coming stars intent on moving the conservative vision forward. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has entered the race for GOP Conference Chair, a party leadership position, and may host weekly classes on the U.S. Constitution for House members.
Senator-elect Rand Paul needs no such classes. He brought “a message from the Tea Party” in his acceptance speech, saying, “We’ve come to take our government back.” His main priority is to “get back to what the Constitution meant and what it intended in the beginning.” Paul, who is not a clone of his father, will be a leader for cutting taxes and lowering spending by limiting the size, scope, and role of government.
That is precisely what Americans want but do not know how to ask for, because no candidate for office in a generation has articulated the message. Instead, they elected as many Republicans as possible in the knowledge many of those who understand these principles are to be found in the party’s ranks. The old GOP leadership, which wants to take the party “to the center,” believes the two-year tidal wave is simply an anti-Obama vote, and voters are pining for the good old days of 2005. Neither they nor the liberal media understand the boiling discontent began before Obama ever came to office.
Florida’s Marco Rubio got the message loud and clear. In his much-praised acceptance speech, he said, “We make a great mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance, a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.” If the House leadership slips into a moderate, go-along-to-get-along mentality instead of a constitutional militancy, Republicans are doomed.
The message of this election was not merely a repudiation of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, but of big government in all its guises. The American voters have spoken a stinging rebuke against a decade of fiscal irresponsibility and government self-aggrandizement. No more Obamacare, Government Motors, or multi-billion dollar stimulus programs. But also no more prescription drug benefit expansions, “No Child Left Behind” bills, or pork-laden budget busters. No more kicking the can on Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. But also no more nation-building or grandiose schemes to foist democracy on an unresponsive world. No reparations payments to Democratic constituencies and no federal bailouts for Republican governors who overspent during the 1990s. No special treatment for ungrateful illegal alien aunts who live on public welfare, and no more crony appointments like Harriet Miers or Alberto Gonzales. No more empty talk of “cutting spending” or “shrinking government,” followed by bloating and business-as-usual. And no to Greek-style debt, uncontrolled borders, and de facto amnesty – from either party.
These are the new rules, and the Republican Party will live, or die, by them.