The Next Republicans: Going Forward

 One of the reasons for the foundation of this new site was the necessity for new thinking about the New Conservatism in the wake of the Bush era. Republicans in the country have tasted little but continued defeat at the polls and a distinct lack of any original thinking out of Republican Washington since the Democrats took power in 2006. Consequently,  many of us have thought about how we go forward to present a new substance to an electorate that has grown exhausted with Republican governance and a Washington Party that is clearly out of ideas. 

Indeed, many are angry at a Washington Party grown too comfortable with the power and privileges of their safe, gerrymandered seats. Nobody now realizes this more than our friend Tom Cole, who found this out in no uncertain terms, when he posted this boilerplate to the NRCC blog page back on May 16th. Tom's meat paragraph is reproduced here:

This week, my colleagues in the Republican Conference announced the American Families Agenda, spearheaded by my colleague, Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas. This new agenda concentrates on the bread and butter issues facing every American. And it recognizes that today, more and more families struggle with balancing work, children and caring for elderly parents. Over the coming weeks, Republicans will be promoting new ideas that give people more personal freedom and lessen the burden of government.

As Mr. Churchill is said to have wryly remarked at a dinner, "This pudding has no theme."

The reaction of Republican activists out in the country to this blog post was, to put it mildly, tectonic. The furies were unleashed and surpassed some 2,500 responses, virtually all of them negative. This post came in the aftermath of the defeats in Louisiana and Mississippi, and could be summed up in one phrase: "not one thin dime!"

The House Leadership, through its own inaction and blundering, had for a very short time, come to symbolize all that was wrong with Washington for Republicans. 

However, for all that, we have to deal with the electorate we have in order to change the Party for the future. The present leadership is emblematic of a Republican Party that remains rooted in the convictions and the certainties of the last decade, and what's more, one that does not ask the voter what they want, nor appeals to their aspirations for the future

That is a cancer, for without vision, the people perish. 

What I'll try to do here is to make some suggestions about Big Terrain Issues and Methodologies. We're all on the same team here, so take this blog entry with that understanding.

People don't hate Government. The only people who hate Government are the Libertarians, and even they call the Fire Department and pay taxes for the maintenance of roads and highways. They recognize that it is necessary. They simply want it to work properly for less of their income. This is simple stuff. We forgot that sometime after, say, 2002, when we started building Bridges to Nowhere. 

We got thrown out in 2006 because people were convinced that Republicans had shot their bolt both overseas (the confidence in warfighting and war-winning) and in the ability of the Republican Party to run the Government. Hurricane Katrina became a metaphor for Republicans in Power. 

We did not get elected in 1994 so that we could head for the hog trough. But that's exactly what we did!

The fact that the Pelosi Democrats have immediately headed for the hog trough is immaterial.

Getting our butts kicked in 2006 was the best thing that ever happened to us, because it began the process of cleaning out the deadwood and the Colonel Blimps. However, when we go to the country at large, whether it is for a State Legislative office or for a House Race, people are going to want to know how we can make government work better for them. That's how you get swing voters to vote for you. 

And you have to be substantive, and well thought out, and on much more solid ground that your Democratic opponent. We do that by polling, of course, but also by getting down into the Big Muddy with the voters and asking them what they want. In too many cases, Republicans believe that technology is a substitute for shoe leather.

Personal experience. We had a state legislative race down here for the Florida House in 2006 in House District 97. Susan Goldstein was the Republican incumbent. Marty Kiar was the Democratic insurgent. Yes, it was a Democratic year, but Marty helped himself by knocking on no less than 20,000 homes over the previous year (either him or his volunteers). Goldstein's last minute negative ad blitz came a cropper and Kiar should win reelection, although the GOP will put up a fight.

Republicans have to relearn the virtues of the Eisenhower era. I liked Ike. Ike meant a strong national defense and an effort to restrain spending. When we lost the Green Eyeshade voter we lost one of the signal differences between us and the Democrats. 

Ike, if you'll recall, served two terms and drove away from the White House an extremely popular man. 

First: spending, spending, spending. Bringing expenditures and outlays into balance will be the chief worry of Republican statesmen going forward. There are several issues at hand: paying for and solving the issue of entitlements, Social Security's long term solvency, the solvency of the Medicare Prescription Drug program, dealing with the long term threat of Chinese naval rearmament and replacing U.S. tactical air assets.

All of these must be paid for. Do not expect an environment of generous tax relief to survive in a universe of such demands on the Treasury. No matter what Larry Kudlow says; that's the environment Republicans must live with. 

Democrats will raise taxes across the board. They control all the strategic committees. They intend to sunset the Bush Tax Relief package.  This will happen whether John McCain is elected or not! The battleground will be on how the money is spent. 

Democrats intend to spend money on their client base. Hogs, meet trough. Get used to that environment. Oh, and they will try to find a way to blame us. We will need to find a way to fight them. 

Republicans have to argue, up and down the ballot, for an Energy policy that calls for solutions based on energy produced here in the homeland. No one likes being at the beck and call of the likes of Chavez and the Saudi Royal Family. We have to argue for growth based on exploration and development. 

Two of the virtues of Ike's policies, learned in Europe and Korea, were Rearmament and Restraint. I strongly suspect we are headed towards a more isolationist sentiment among the electorate. Victor Davis Hanson has touched on this some, but I suspect that even should McCain win, one of the unintended consequences from even a successful Iraq Campaign will be an increased sense of isolationism and alienation from the Europeans. This will effect campaigns as we go forward. The notion of an Atlantic Alliance with the Europeans will not remain sacrosanct among Republicans for long.

Lastly, how the Iraq Campaign is concluded will affect politics in this country for the next twenty to thirty years. If we bring it to a successful conclusion and the Iraqi Government stands up at least a halfway competent regime that can protect Iraq's frontiers, then all will be well. Indeed, Democrats will be chastened by their early forcasts of defeat. When John McCain states that he would rather lose an election than lose a war, I get over my reservations about the man. 

However, if a President Obama gives in to his instincts and washes his hands of Iraq, then Al Qaeda will gain new life and Iran will grow even stronger. Iraq could descend into chaos and genocide, and politics in this country will be poisoned for a generation. 

I would hope that the readers of this post will take it as my humble, first contribution to a way forward. It's not the only way, but it is some highlights of what I see.

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