Dick Armey wrote in OpinionJournal In all my years in politics, I've never sensed such anger and frustration from our volunteers--those who do the hard work of door-to-door mobilization that Republican candidates depend on to get elected. Across the nation, wherever I go to speak with them, their refrain is the same: "I can't tell a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats." Our base rightly expects Republicans to govern by the principles--lower taxes, less government and more freedom--that got them elected. Today, with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, there is a widening credibility gap between their political rhetoric and their public policies.
I completely agree.What will happen to Republicans if these freedom-loving, grassroots activists don't show up for work next fall?
They need to show up, because electing Dems would be even worse, but some of those freedom-loving grassoots activists need to run in the primaries against the overspending spineless RINOs.The elections earlier this month may be an indication of the answer. Colorado's Gov. Bill Owens, once the future presidential nominee of choice among smaller-government conservatives, teamed up with liberal Democrats in the Legislature to expand the state budget by billions of dollars and grab taxpayers' refunds for years to come. The Democratic big spenders got what they wanted, but it has left the Republican Party fractured and effectively ended Gov. Owens's future as a Republican leader. Here is one of Armey's Axioms: Make a deal with the devil and you're the junior partner.
Good point.At the national level, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are presiding over the largest expansion of government since LBJ's Great Society, things are no better. Our political base expects elected leaders to cut both tax rates and spending, because they know that the real tax burden is reflected in the overall size of government.
Instead, we have embarrassing spectacles like the 2005 highway bill. Costing $295 billion, it is 35% larger than the last transportation bill, fueled by 6,371 earmarks doled out to favored political constituencies. By comparison, the 1987 highway bill was vetoed by Ronald Reagan for containing relatively few (152) earmarks. Overall, even excluding defense and homeland security spending, the growth rate of discretionary spending adjusted for inflation is at a 40-year high.
George Bush has done a very good job, but he needs to learn how to veto these bills.All of our leaders are complicit in this spending spree. President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. The House leadership refuses to rein in appropriators, claiming, as one of them preposterously put it, that "there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget."
I have always believed that good policy is good politics for Republicans. Reagan won against an incumbent president in 1980, declaring in his first inaugural address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." I beat an incumbent Democrat in 1984, against the dire predications of my party's political experts, on an aggressive agenda of smaller government and Social Security reform based on large personal retirement accounts. In 1994, Republicans took control of the House for the first time in 40 years, running on the Contract with America, a clearly articulated public policy agenda based on smaller, smarter government.
Conversely, when we let politics define our agenda, we get in trouble. The highway bill is one example in which the criterion of choice was politics. An even better example was 2003's expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs. This was an explicitly political effort to take health care "off the table" for the 2004 elections. I said at that time that the proposed legislation was "a case where bad politics has produced a bad policy proposal." I predicted that the deal was "bad news for senior citizens and possibly even worse political news for the Republican Party." Here is another one of Armey's Axioms: You can't get your finger on the problem if you've got it in the wind. Bad policy is bad politics. The 2003 expansion of Medicare enacted by Republicans has dramatically increased the financial pressures on an already broken program, and it has become a political albatross around the necks of Republicans who voted for it.
I agree. I wish they had not passed it, and I am in a position to take advantage of it. But now that it has been inacted, it will be very easy for Democrats to expand it.As the party of smaller government, Republicans will always have a more difficult job governing than Democrats do. Government naturally wants to expand. It is always easier for politicians when both you and your political base truly believe that there is a new government program to solve any problem, real or imagined. We will always have to work harder and be more entrepreneurial than our political opponents when it comes to implementing reforms.
To succeed in the future, the Republican Party must get back to basics. We need, in effect, another Republican takeover of Congress, reaffirming a commitment to less government, lower taxes and more freedom. As in 1994, this revolution will be driven by the Young Turks of the party--the brave backbenchers more inspired by Reagan than the possibility of a glowing editorial on the pages of the New York Times. Indeed, this is already happening.
I agree. We need to take over Congress from the big spending RINOs.A serious effort to slow the growth of the federal budget is being driven by a small group of House Republicans led by Reps. Mike Pence, Jeff Flake and Jeb Hensarling. Against their own leadership's wishes, this brave group and others from the Republican Study Committee gathered outside the Cannon House office building in September to kick off "Operation Offset," a modest proposal to pay for the extraordinary costs associated with Hurricane Katrina with savings from other parts of the budget. Top on the list: cuts in highway pork and a suspension of the soon-to-be-implemented expansion of Medicare. It would have been easier not to have overspent in the first place, but the Republican Congress must reestablish its credibility as the party of spending restraint and fiscal responsibility.
Likewise, the Republican Congress must make the most important elements of the Bush tax cuts permanent, particularly repeal of the death tax, lower income tax rates and dividend tax relief. These proposals deserve substantial credit for the current strength of the American economy. Success would represent real steps toward our ultimate goal of tax reform and a simple, fair and flat income tax.
I agree.While prospects for retirement security seem unlikely before 2006, I'm counting on able legislative entrepreneurs like Sen. Jim DeMint to drag his colleagues, kicking and screaming, into a serious, adult debate about the most important policy challenge facing our generation. Personally, I've never quite understood the bed-wetters' fears when it comes to personal retirement accounts. How could you possibly lose by saving future retirees--our children and grandchildren--from another broken government promise?
None of this will be easy. The good news for Republicans willing to do this heavy lifting is that the "ideas" of the left are bankrupt. Notice that the brightest liberal politicians, like Hillary Clinton, always move toward our policy ground as they prepare to run for national office. Why would Republicans want to act like them when they act like us in order to win?
One final Armey Axiom: When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.