September 18, 2006

Tough Love Among Republicans

The current issue of Washington Monthly has an extremely interesting piece entitled "Time For Us To Go" that collects articles by a number of prominent conservative Republicans - Christopher Buckley, Bruce Bartlett, Joe Scarborough, William A. Niskanen, Bruce Fein, Jeffrey Hart and Richard Viguerie - who are advocating Democratic victory in at least one house of Congress in the upcoming mid-term elections. While they are hardly claiming that Democrats are the nation's saving grace, a consistent theme among the authors is a desire for government divided along party lines.

Such a state of affairs has historically created tension that forces compromise and keeps the more extreme elements of either side from gaining traction. Former Congressman Scarborough, for instance, credits just such a divide with helping to build the $150 billion budget surplus that existed at the end of Bill Clinton's presidency, and given the electoral purges that occur in Congress roughly every 20 years, the public has likewise shown itself to have a low tolerance for the excesses of single-party rule. The last such purge took place in 1994, but along with a strong likelihood that there will be another this year, there appears to be some sense - as with these conservatives - that the current incarnation of the Republican Party has moved beyond the pale of even the usual cyclical abuses of power.

Some of the writers, such as Bruce Fein, have voiced their belief for some time that the Bush Administration and the Republican-held Congress have forfeited their responsibilities to the nation and to conservative values. Others, like Scarborough, have become vocal only more recently. Some advocate a drastic change in leadership in order to reinvigorate the GOP, and others believe that the best thing for their party would be to have Nancy Pelosi and/or Harry Reid leading a majority Democratic party in full public view. Whatever their reasoning, their recognition that the massive failure of current policies, driven as they are by ideology rather than realism, is welcome in the extreme.

Some notable quotes from the Washington Monthly articles:

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles.
-- Christopher Buckley

Let [Democrats] defund the war and implement an immediate pullout if that’s what they really think we should do. At least it would force the administration to explain itself better and face some oversight, for which the Republican Congress has essentially abrogated all responsibility.
-- Bruce Bartlett

I also seem to remember muttering something about preferring an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America’s checkbook for the next two years.
-- Joe Scarborough

Equally striking is that these spending increases have generally found the same recipient: the Pentagon. It’s not that unified governments love to purchase bombers, but, rather, that they tend to draw us into war. This may sound improbable at first, but consider this: In 200 years of U.S. history, every one of our conflicts involving more than a week of ground combat has been initiated by a unified government.
-- William A. Niskanen

The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power... But a Republican Congress has done nothing to thwart President George W. Bush’s alarming usurpations of legislative prerogatives. Instead, it has largely functioned as an echo chamber of the White House.
-- Bruce Fein

Successful government by either Democrats or Republicans has always been, above all, realistic. FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan were all reelected by landslides and rank as great presidents who responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it. But ideological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They’ve earned it.
-- Jeffrey Hart

If Big Government Republicans behave so irresponsibly and betray the people who elected them, while we blindly, slavishly continue backing them, we establish that there is no price to pay for violating conservative principles. If we give in, we are forgetting the lesson that mothers teach their daughters: Why buy a cow when the milk is free?
-- Richard Viguerie

Will a divided government actually serve to keep a Republican in the Oval Office? Will spending, or ideology or government growth be changed from their present courses under two-party leadership? Will Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid aquit themselves well as majority leaders if given the opportunity? All are interesting questions, but in the end, beside the point; they are no more than justifications by these authors, either to themselves or to their constituencies.

One may choose to agree or disagree with the arguments that these men use to support their positions. The important thing is that the central tenet of their articles is a realization that this country continues to be damaged by the Bush White House and the current Congress, and that change is desperately needed. A measure of that need's desperation is that these articles have been written at all.

No comments: