I know I’ve been promising this since November, but sometimes procrastination is a good thing. I’ve been able to get the benefit of finding out the first almost-two months of complete Democratic rule in both DC and Wisconsin, as well as the initial Repblican and conservative reactions. Most of what I’ve seen has been, frankly, frightening.
First, what the Democrats have made their big push has been, as expected, a complete rollback of the last 28 years of conservative gains, be they economic, social or governmental. It was not a coincidence that one of the first executive orders signed was an overturning of the ban on funding of offshore abortions. It was not a coincidence that almost $800 billion plus interest was the as-signed cost of the Generational Theft Act, or that a stripping of the work-for-benefits rules adopted in the 1990s was a condition of it. It was not a coincidence that a full reversal of the “Drill here, drill now” moves at the end of the Bush Administration was a top priority of the Department of Interior. It is not a coincidence that a rush to adopt a business-crushing environmental regime that vastly expands the power and role of government is a priority in both Madison and Washington. It is not a coincidence that and the death of school choice and the Qualified Economic Offer (which mandates a minimum 3.8% annual increase in the total teachers’ compensation package in exchange for a no-strike rule) is a priority in Madison.
So, what have Republicans and conservatives do in the face of that? I wish I had good news, but the after-hours discussions around CPAC have disabused me of the hope that we’ve learned anything from the last 2 election cycles. Each of the factions are still trying to push the others out of the conservative coalition.
What made the Reagan and 1994 House revolutions successful was that it combined the economic, governmental, and social conservatives into something resembling a majority. I can’t call either a true majority because neither Ronald Reagan nor Newt Gingrich had both the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, but they had enough force to halt and reverse at least some of liberalism’s overreaches.
That force was singularily lacking in the George W. Bush era. While there was, for a significant part of the term, a Republican majority in both the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, very little of what could be called conservatism came out of there, especially on the governmental side. Consequently, the Republicans lost credibility with all the branches and got summarily tossed out the last 2 elections.
One could claim that the liberals and Democrats cribbed that winning formula of unity. They have, but only to a certain extent. They succeeded only because the conservative coalition got divided. Taken individually, the tenents of conservatism, be they social, economic or governmental, are still winners. In California (yes, THAT California), the voters ignored the intimidation from the Left to reject gay “marriage”. In countless communities, when the true cost of big-government/big-spending referenda was revealed, the referenda went down. This past week, on short notice, thousands showed up to protest the high-tax/high-spend/no-freedom moves of the Democrats.
I need to shift focus to Wisconsin for a moment. While there hasn’t really been a broad-based conservative revolution like there was nationally, both school choice and welfare reform did start here under Tommy Thompson. Like the national GOP slide, the Wisconsin one started with a rejection of governmental conservatism; unlike the national one, where big government slowly crept in, it was an explicit rejection of a clarion call by the party elite.
Speaking of the elite, there has been a lot of attacks on those that aren’t part of the Republican Party insider structure. Whether it was attacks on Sarah Palin for not being an Ivy Leaguer and for standing up to the Alaska pork machine, or attacks on Joe the Plumber for being a more-or-less Average Joe rather than a country-club Big Business owner, or attacks on Rush Limbaugh for trying to get the band back together outside the party power structure, they have distressed me, mainly because I am definitely not part of the structure. Nobody has all the answers, and when somebody is wrong, the wrongs do need to be pointed out, but we need to leave the personal attacks on our own to the Left.
I’ve intentionally ignored the notion that conservatives do a “Whigging” to the GOP. While that may well be the best course of action if we had unlimited time, we don’t. The half-looter threshhold is about to be crossed, the entitlement time bomb is rapidly approaching the point of no return, and the state legislatures that are seated in 2011 will (except in states where the courts usurped that authority) will be the ones that draw the districts for the following decade.
I know we’re not likely to get both the majority of the statehouses and majorities in Congress this time around. Therefore, we have to focus on one of those. Because the 2010 Census, which will be flawed, will decide the shape of the various legislative and Congressional districts and likely control of the various statehouses and Congress for the next decade, that focus must be on the state level.