Monday, March 20, 2006


Republican woes

The GOP–in-trouble bit is becoming a familiar one this election year and sightings will only become more frequent as November approaches. Part factual-analysis, part wishful-thinking; they play on a hope/concern that the era of Republican control of the House and Senate may soon be over because of public dissatisfaction with the goings-on in Washington.

Today’s Washington Post adds to this growing collection of writings with a piece by Dan Balz and Jonathan Weisman that asserts the GOP Struggles To Define Its Message for 2006 Elections. While recounting the standard litany of woes weighing on Republicans up for re-election this year, it offers this:

“Republicans insist they remain united around core principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense…”

I think that’s right: most Republicans are united around those core principles (although I would also throw in a restrained Judiciary). The problem is that Republican politicians don’t really trust the voters to be so. They seem to secretly believe their constituents can easily be swayed from their ranks with Democratic promises of more something for nothing. So they attempt to preempt that opposition message with their own something for nothing. Hence our latest outbreak of earmark gluttony.

Fortunately for the Republicans, they have those core principles to act as a lodestar for when they’ve gone astray. And deviating for the sake of pragmatism or expediency is turning out to be neither pragmatic nor expedient. Rick Santorum, probably as reliable a conservative as we have in the Senate, is still dogged by his inexplicable vocal support for Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary over Pat Toomey. The National Republican Senatorial Committee lags in fundraising in part because it moronically continues to insist on viciously attacking Lincoln Chaffee’s primary opponent.

The Democrats got out their vote in unprecedented numbers in 2004, only to see the Republicans match and surpass them. That base outpouring was not because of bridges to nowhere, guest worker programs or an increase in the ceiling debt. Instead it was a response to core principles. Counting on the Democrats main message of “We’re not them” not to resonate is not a viable political strategy for the Republicans. It is worrisome when so many of us who do not make our living as political wonks can so clearly that while the so-called pros apparently can’t (or won’t).

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