December 29, 2010
Is the Republican Party Finished?
The lame-duck session of the 111th Congress proved one thing beyond a doubt: the Republican Party does not represent the interests of conservatives. Despite the midterm election tidal wave, in which the Republican Party gained 63 House seats (eclipsing its historic 1994 success against Clinton), congressional Republicans failed to leverage their victory into political clout and collapsed like a house of cards in the lame-duck session.
The last two weeks ought to sicken conservatives. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spectacularly failed to hold his caucus together to even delay ratification of New START until the 112th Congress is seated in January. Republican leftists Olympia Snowe and Lisa Murkowski sided with Democrats to end the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, forcing the gay agenda from the streets of San Francisco right into the U.S. Marine Corps. Congressional Republicans agreed to cut FICA taxes for Social Security (which is underfunded already) and expand the Democratic Party's welfare state constituency by extending unemployment benefits -- in exchange for maintaining current tax rates for a paltry two years. The deal will add billions to the deficit. Tea Party darling Scott Brown, mocked by Obama for driving a truck in his insurgent 2009 campaign in which he stole "Ted Kennedy's seat" from the Democrats, voted for Obama's agenda on all of these issues.
Give the Democratic devils their due. They are astute students of Machiavelli. They know how to exercise power. The ink was barely dry on the DADT repeal when Obama cynically announced that he'd now "rethink" his (supposed) opposition to gay marriage, and Vice President Biden announced that gay marriage is "inevitable." Despite historically low congressional approval ratings, Speaker Pelosi rammed socialized medicine and cap-and-trade legislation through the House by one-vote margins and pursued the exercise of power right up to the eleventh hour of the lame-duck session. When's the last time Republicans pursued their agenda so ruthlessly? Maybe 1919, when Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge held his caucus together to defeat the Treaty of Versailles by one vote -- unmoved by the plight of Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who lay crippled in the White House after having a stroke but still trying to rally public opinion in favor of the treaty.
The Republicans do not pursue their agenda ruthlessly because they do not have one -- at least not a conservative one that differs substantially from the Democratic agenda. The capitulation to the lame-duck Democrats is merely the latest in a decades-long series of episodes in which Republicans have actively colluded with Democrats to push the left-wing agenda of the 1960s forward.
The majority opinion in Roe v. Wade was written by Republican Harry Blackmun. Republican appointee Sandra Day O'Connor voted to uphold Roe in Casey v. Planned Parenthood. Republican justice Anthony Kennedy cited the European Court of Human Rights in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared that the Constitution guarantees a right to anal sodomy. Republican President George W. Bush expanded the already-bloated Federal bureaucracy with the hideous Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, "No Child Left Behind," and the Medicare prescription drug entitlement. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports gay marriage and signed restrictive ammunition bans into law in California; former Republican Gov. George Pataki signed restrictive gun-control legislation in New York. Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney can hardly campaign against ObamaCare after initiating mandatory health care insurance in Massachusetts. Republican Senators McCain and Graham support amnesty for illegal aliens; Graham and Snowe voted to put Sonia "A Wise Latina Can Make Better Decisions Than a White Man" Sotomayor on the Supreme Court. Republicans, who supposedly oppose affirmative action, named Colin Powell Secretary of State; Powell rewarded them by endorsing Barack Obama in 2008. The party that was founded as an anti-slavery party and appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court cannot get more than ten percent of the black vote in a good year. After losing 96% of the black vote to a black Democrat in 2008, Republicans eagerly panted "Me too!" and named Michael Steele party chairman.
What a mess.
Conservatives today are in essentially the same position that the radical left was in back in the sixties. Then, every institution in American society -- the "Establishment" in sixties jargon -- was socially and temperamentally conservative. The radicals found themselves with nowhere to go but the streets. Today's "Establishment" is uniformly leftist, and conservatives are as unwelcome in the halls of power today as the radical left was 45 years ago. In order to move forward, conservatives are going to need to do what the left did in 1968: begin in the streets, capture a political party and convert it to its agenda, and follow up in the courts when they lose elections.
Even more important, conservatives are going to have to learn to exploit national crises to advance their agenda. And surely these crises are coming -- the national debt, currency valuation, inflation, Iranian nuclear weapons, illegal immigration, a day of reckoning in Afghanistan, and so on.
Voters will demand alternatives to leftist policies when these crises appear. If the Republicans do not present conservative alternatives, conservatives will have to form a party of their own.
Voters in November voted against the Democrats, not for the Republicans. Nothing in the last two weeks indicates that the Republicans are ready to give the nation any real alternative when the 112th Congress is seated. If the Republican Party fails to do more than ape the Democratic Party, it will be finished -- if it isn't already.