How the Republicans Can Win in November--and Still Lose the Republic
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Likewise, all that is necessary for America to sink further into the morass of economic stagnation, moral decay, and heavy-handed federal control is for congressional Republicans to mistake their impending victory in the fall elections for a vote of confidence.
The message of the American people in primary elections from Alaska to Kentucky and from Delaware to Utah has not been, "We want the same old Republican ideas." Quite the contrary, most Americans (including a majority of Republican voters) have made it abundantly clear that they have no use for a "third Bush term." Even so, Americans also intuitively understand that, like it or not, if the Democrats continue to control both Congress and the White House, the America that they have known and cherished-the America of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, of Pilgrims and pioneers, of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Reagan, of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution-will vanish forever.
The Republicans, of course, recognize this dynamic and are eagerly waiting in the wings to re-ensconce themselves in powerful chairmanships and, one cannot help but speculate, to reestablish themselves as the dispensers of federal beneficence in the form of government contracts, earmarks, and entitlement spending. In other words, if history is a guide, it is reasonable to expect the Republican to abandon their rhetoric about limited government, lower taxes, and traditional values and revert back to business as usual as soon as the election is in hand.
But business as usual in Washington for the better part of eight decades has included the piecemeal dismantling of the Constitution-or at least of those parts of the Constitution that impose meaningful limitations on the power of the federal government. The mandate in the Democrats' healthcare law requiring every American to purchase health insurance-or face a hefty fine-is only the newest accretion of a long train of abuses and usurpations of Congress's legitimate authority.
Members of Congress from both political parties routinely minimize or altogether fail to consider the long-term damage they cause every time they choose to transgress constitutional boundaries. And though it may be theoretically possible to restore our system of limited representative government as long as free and fair elections continue, such a restoration at this late stage has become a monumental task. One legislative transgression has led to another-debts have accumulated across generations, entitlements have grown beyond any sane hope of sustainability-and over time the boundaries of congressional power have been all but obliterated.
We should not then, perhaps, be surprised that the Republican Party, in its "Pledge to America," fails to signal a categorical departure from its own history of disregarding constitutional limits and expanding entitlement spending. Certainly, the Pledge, if followed, represents a step away from the brink-a return to fiscal discipline, self-restraint, and free market solutions. Unfortunately, these steps, while laudable, are insufficient to halt America's long-term slide into a debilitating form of socialism.
Missing from the Republican plan is a clearly articulated vision for the future of America. Americans are not in the mood for business as usual; they (overwhelmingly) know the country is off course and want someone to lead them back to prosperity, and dignity, and greatness. And if the Republicans hope to accomplish anything with their new majority other than to preside over the dismantling of the republic, they must learn to appreciate this aspect of the American psyche.
The silver lining, perhaps, is that the Republican majority that takes office in 2011 will be swollen with a vocal minority of Tea Party candidates who, by-and-large, are passionately committed to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and who genuinely believe that the Constitution should be viewed as an enforceable legal document. These new members of Congress will have the ear of the American people and an opportunity, however brief, to chart a new path to a more noble future.
Nathan A. Earle is an attorney in Greenville, SC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.