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Republicans had their chance and blew it

By Michael M. Bates
web posted November 6, 2006

If the polls are right, tomorrow U.S. voters will place Democrats in control of the House of Representatives. The switch requires the turnover of only 15 congressional seats. Last Monday, one pollster predicted on national television that the Democratic sweep will be at least 25 seats and possibly 30 or more.

I doubt it. Public opinion surveys aren't always dependable. Back in 1980, experts were virtually unanimous in declaring the presidential election of incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan "too close to call."
Gov. Reagan won by a margin of nearly ten percent of the popular vote. His Electoral College victory was even more decisive. Winning all but six states and D.C., he beat President Carter 10-to-1 in electoral votes.

Despite this year's predictions, I cling to a belief – maybe it's more of a hope - that there won't be a Democratic avalanche. It's realistic, though, to anticipate they'll secure enough victories to take control of the House.
That isn't good news, at least for this conservative who's pulled the lever for only two Democrats in more than 30 years of voting. That wasn't because there's something magic about the GOP. It was just that, almost without exception, Republicans field more conservative candidates than Democrats do.

Moreover, the Democratic leadership isn't merely liberal, but archliberal. Whether the issue is taxes, defense policy, abortion or terrorism, the folks holding key positions within the party are on the fringe. A Democratic majority will be disastrous. We're going to pay a huge price for it, and not just fiscally.

Still, it's difficult to conclude that Republicans earned the right to stay in power. Many conservative voters, the ones who elected them, feel let down.

When the GOP took the House majority in 1995, after 40 years of minority status, hopes were bright. Finally, there were people in Washington prepared to slap a leash on the government behemoth.

They enjoyed initial success. With the exception of term limits, the entire Contract with America was passed. Sweeping welfare reform was eventually enacted despite Clinton's vetoes. (Of course, he later took credit for it.)
Then, in 1998, the seemingly impossible happened. The federal budget was, for the first time in almost 30 years, balanced.

It looked as though more achievements were inevitable if there were greater cooperation from the White House. So as George W. Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, there was an optimism.

Many conservatives have been disappointed. A major reason is that the GOP, once unarguably the party of fiscal prudence and limited government, appears to have adopted the squandering ways of their opponents. Last year, a Cato Institute analysis concluded that President George W. Bush, in terms of discretionary spending, has been an even bigger spender than Lyndon B. Johnson.

Congressional Republicans have been complicit in this ignominy. They've shown that they are every bit as avaricious when it comes to pork as the legislators they replaced.

Another cause of discontent has been Congress doing precious little about illegal immigration. It doesn't matter how it's disguised, amnesty isn't acceptable to conservatives. A nation that can't control its borders can't control its future, yet it appears as though a significant number of Republicans are so fearful of losing Hispanic voters that they'll stand by and do nothing.

Then there are the ethical problems. One Republican congressman was carted off to the hoosegow earlier this year for taking bribes. Another one will soon join him. Lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, it turned out, was a Democratic problem as well as one for the GOP, but that doesn't improve the situation.

Conservatives thought that Republicans would abide by a higher standard of ethical conduct. Corruption is expected from the likes of Jim Wright, Dan Rostenkowski, William Jefferson, the Clintons and other Democrats. That a few Republicans have stooped to the same level is a reminder of Lord Acton's famous dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Some conservatives are sitting this election out in disgust. I'm not. As bad as Republicans might be, they're still far superior to what Democrats have to offer.

The capability to truthfully assert that our guys aren't as bad as their guys doesn't engender enthusiasm among my brethren. Perhaps a couple of years of Nancy Pelosi and her leftwing associates will be enough to get the GOP to shape up and revitalize the revolution once advanced by Ronald Reagan. ESR

This Michael M. Bates column appeared in the November 2, 2006 Reporter Newspapers.

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