Monday, November 13, 2006

Why did the Republicans Lose?

The current Republican wisdom is that Democrats didn't win this election; Republicans lost. A pretty fine distinction, in my mind, but when you have lost I suppose you care about such distinctions.

And why did the Republicans lose? Because they were insufficiently conservative. That's the take in William Rusher's latest article, and he's not alone in pushing it.
In the 12 years since the GOP took control of Congress, they have settled down comfortably to "politics as usual," mimicking the performance of the Democrats during their 40 years in control. They cheerfully abandoned their conservative commitment to reducing government expenditures, racking up deficits that would have appalled Bill Clinton, and, actually, pushed the use of "earmarks" (whereby individual Congressmen can insert pork into legislation invisibly) to limits not even the Democrats had ever dreamed of. Inevitably, in this atmosphere, outright corruption ultimately made its appearance, and several Republican members of the House and their staff members are now in, or on their way to, prison.
So there it is. I'm not going to deny that the way Republicans have governed turned off their base, who certainly would like to see more fiscal responsibility at the top. But I think you also need to look at how Congress has performed in overseeing President Bush's handling of the War on Terror.

Mr. Rusher argue that Congress can't be blamed for the War in Iraq, as well as other problems related to the War on Terror. He couldn't be more wrong. Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq and they have been negligent in providing real oversight on the Executive Branch. It was earlier this year that we were seriously discussing the Unitary Executive. I don't think you can avoid the fact that the people saw a President out of control and a Congress not willing to do perform their duty in controlling him.

So yeah, the fact that Republicans in Congress spent like drunken sailors probably didn't help them any, but it was only a symptom of a deeper problem - i.e. the unwillingness to take their responsibilities to the people seriously when that meant criticizing fellow Republicans.

However erroneous Mr. Rusher's analysis is, however, it's clear that it is one of the main explanations for Republicans recent electoral failures. And what are the implications for 2008? It depends on whether or not President Bush and Karl Rove can make a case that their conservativism and military adventurism is real conservativism or not. It seems like, at this point, that's going to be a hard sell. So look for someone to postulate a "real" conservativism between now and then.

No comments: