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July 1, 2010
Last chance for Republicans
In 1994, an electoral tsunami washed House Democrats out of the majority for the first time in forty years. The runoff returned them in twelve years. Four years later, pundits predict another Republican wave in Washington.
Memory won't permit attribution, but someone recently wrote about sine waves, suggesting that politics runs in similar cycles. The facts, though, suggest that, if politics resembles wave action, it is not mathematical sine waves, but more like radio waves in which the frequency and amplitude are constantly variable.
Forty years. Twelve years. Four years? The frequency is increasing. It took twelve years for Republicans to lose their way and return Democrats to the majority, and it appears that Democratic seismic irresponsibility may have shocked Republicans back on track in only four.
In state capitals the economic downturn has highlighted the failures of liberal governance: unsustainable social spending, regulation above job creation, the heavy tax burden on top earners. Voters see it. They have also seen the Obama administration's willingness to paper over those failures with federal stimulus dollars. America is ripe for change.
2010 may be a Republican opportunity, but, since the cycles have shortened, memories of a Republican majority are fresh. In a two party system, the "out" party is the only refuge for an alarmed citizenry. In that context, a reformed Republican may be better than a Democrat, but many voters would prefer politicians who never lost their focus on fiscal responsibility in the first place. Few were to be found in Washington during the Bush years. The question is whether loss of the majority brought an epiphany to the Republican caucus or if their new sense of fiscal responsibility is merely a proxy for opposition to the Democratic agenda subject to revision when they next take the majority.
If we are to survive as a nation recognizable to anyone over the age of forty, Congress must fix some things immediately.
Nothing ever goes away in Washington. Historically, federal spending programs are easily started and almost impossible to stop. We have many examples in the past seventeen months. Even small attempts at fiscal and social sanity are thwarted by congressional spending irresponsibility and status quo mentality. In their huge stimulus bill, the Obama administration and its congressional enablers reversed Clinton-era welfare reform by incentivizing the states to increase welfare enrollment. This is the polar opposite of what America needs.
Voters understand that the irresponsible programs for which Democrats have voted will be damaging to the economy, for household incomes and for American society for many years unless spending is curbed.
The Founders didn't foresee a permanent political class and huge bureaucracies. That we have them today is not an indictment of the Founder's judgment, but of our own for permitting it.
We must disable the tools career politicians use to protect their incumbency, tools that make it difficult for new blood in their own parties and independents to run for office. For example, earmarks are a corrupt and corrupting practice used by congressional leadership to buy votes for their legislative schemes and by members to fatten their campaign war chests, using public money to attract favorable publicity in their districts. Free political speech is restricted by campaign finance law, and standards for ballot qualification are far higher for independents than they are for party-affiliated candidates. At best, all of these practices are ethically questionable.
Assuming they get it in November. Republicans should understand that this is their last chance. They will not get another. But neither will any Democrat who has been responsible for the massive accumulation of debt that threatens our way of life and the lives of future generations of Americans. Democrats did more damage in less than two years than a Republican administration with a Republican majority did in six while fighting two wars and recovering from the effects of 9/11 and Katrina. But damage is damage no matter the scale.
If Republicans are voters' only refuge this year, how they perform will determine the future, not only of the party, but of the nation.
Jerry Shenk is a retired sales and marketing professional living in Central Pennsylvania. He was Chairman of the Advisory Board for USMC (ret) Col. Frank Ryan's campaign for United States Congress. Mr. Shenk can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org