Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Recipe for disaster

Congressional GOP leadership was sorely lacking during the last two years, if not longer. This is not a new charge by any means (the word 'insomnia' was heard on Bill Bennet’s show this morning).

And it’s true. The GOP has always had great difficulty acting like a majority party, failing to take control when the opportunity was there, going weak-kneed when the D.C. press corp conducted their one-sided interviews (would someone PLEASE put Lynn Cheney in charge of back-bone transplants?). They abandoned issues that clearly would have worked for them like immigration reform, tort reform, tax reform, judicial confirmations, social security reform.

Some of this was due to lack of strong, committed leadership in both Houses. I had hopes that Frist would be a better manager of the issues and the caucus in the Senate than Trent Lott had been, but that was not to be; the ‘Gang of 14’ emerged in the vacuum. The Contract with America is now dead because there weren’t enough defenders left in the chambers. Instead, the GOP became too ‘D.C.’-like, repeating the same sort of behavior they used to rail against, spending like there was no tomorrow. Rep. Mike Pence said it best today; “…we did not just lose our majority, we lost our way”

Party discipline was rarely present. The farthest out of the 'big tent,' like Lincoln Chafee, were treated no differently than those members most loyal to party principles (when they existed…). This resulted in much of the base abandoning Elizabeth Dole and the National Republican Senatorial Committee during this cycle.

But one of the biggest burrs under the GOP saddle is that while the Democrats are street fighters in the arena, the GOP cowers from rhetorical blasts lest someone get offended or they appear ‘intolerant.’ The GOP needs both a set of bearings and a set of cojones. To quote Captain Ed's 4/14/2005 post linked above, "To hell with Frist, to hell with Thune, and to hell with the GOP if they wait until the session is half-over before finding their spine or other significant parts of their anatomy."

It should be noted that the strategy the Democrats used to bring about this victory was to make a large feint to the RIGHT! But it will be obvious fairly soon that the newly-elected ‘moderate-conservative’ Democrats in the Senate, like Webb and Casey, will be mere cannon fodder for the likes of Leahy and Reid.

I guess what best sums up a big reason for the loss…if you’re going to have Democrats in charge of Congress, why not vote for the real thing?

The GOP is now at a fork in the road. Either follow the ideological examples of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich over the next two or three cycles and be in a position to take back Congress, or fall back to a ‘moderate’ leadership style like the old Jerry Ford/ Michaels group and remain also-rans. Best not to sit and bicker about it. The time to chose is now.

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