Last night was a bloodbath for the GOP all across the country. I suspect as the votes are tallied and the exit polling is further broken down it will become abundently clear that the GOP losses were the result of a dispirited conservative base. Voters were not so much voting for Democrats as they were against the GOP. After all, how could voters vote for a party that has offered no real governing platform?
While I cringe when faced with the new reality of a House of Representatives run by San Francisco liberal values, I fear more the prospect that this voter imposed time-out for Republicans does not work. It is up to conservatives within the GOP to see to it that their colleagues take to heart the lessons of November 2006. Big government conservatism — the kind that says big government is good government as long as it is our government — has been repudiated.
The Republican party — Ronald Reagan’s Party — cannot “out-big government” the Democrats. The only way this Party functions genuinely is by operating on the guiding conservative principles of limited government, traditional values and a strong national defense. Two out of the three will not work.
Neglecting one of the three legs of the stool — limited government — is rightly seen by the American voter as a betrayal of principle. Voters who sent Republicans to Washington did not send them there to increase the size of government. Yet that is what they have done.
- It started in 2003 with the first creation of a new entitlement in decades: the Medicare Prescription Drug Act.
- The No Child Left Behind Act continues to symbolize Republican abandonement of conservative principles as increased funding is poured into the federal program.
- Then the doling out of pork for political purposes further signaled a comfortableness with spending the people’s money freely.
- The latest federal transportation bill grew to enormous and unprecedented proportions.
- Congress’s “third party,” the Appropriators, continue to gain power and influence. Republicans, the once Party of limited government, have overseen the shift of power to the pork-hungry Appropriators who weild their power in embarassing and harmful ways. Ted Stevens is still unapologetic for his shamelessness on the Bridge to Nowhere vote.
- Senator Judd Gregg has proposed a comprehensive budget reform package that would clean up the spending mess in Congress. He cannot even get floor time for a vote, much less the support the whole GOP caucus in the Senate.
It is now left to the conservatives in both the House and Senate to clearly understand the magnitude of the betrayal and to lead their Party back to Reagan Republicanism. Mike Pence is reportedly considering a run for the top leadership slot in the House. Here is a man who understands Reagan and therefore understands what it means to be a conservative. Whether in leadership or not, he must be an integral part of this renewal process.
It is back to basics for the GOP. Republicans have two years to prove to the American voter that they are conservatives who are in Washington to check the ever-growing power and reach of the federal government, not to become part of it.
UPDATE: It begins…as expected, Mike Pence will run for Minority Leader.
UPDATE: A Pence for Minority Leader community has formed at Facebook.
UPDATE 10:30: I am on a conference call right now with two well known pollsters. One of the most telling stats they have is this: 20 percent of self-identified conservative voters this year voted for Democrats, while only 8 percent of liberal voters crossed over. Conservatives punished Republicans for straying from principle.