It's time the Republicans went back to what worked

By Gord Gekko
web posted December 1998

The joy of politics is its sheer unpredictability. A few months ago if you were to lay down money on which politician you thought would be unemployed in the near future, you would have likely put it on the First Philanderer. Surprise of surprises, Clinton has outlived none other than Newt Gingrich, who fell on his sword after the disaster of November 3.

Though it was the Republicans were accused of wanting to Rodney King minorities, take away benefits from American Association of Retired Persons and starve school children, it was actually Newt who did himself and his party in through his own sheer incompetence over the past few years.

Take, for example, everyone's favourite sex scandal. While it was close, but no cigar for impeachment, Republicans ignored the fact that the American public didn't give so much as a rat's what was on that blue dress in Monica Lewinsky's closet.

The Republicans attacked Clinton and his administration over the scandal in an effort to show the moral emptiness of his régime, forgetting - while average Americans didn't -- that they could have done it in other ways. It's called an ideology. It showed a weakness that many Republicans have.

The cats of the right came to power in 1994 on the strength of the Contract with America, a clearly defined set of principles that most Americans happen to agree with, even if they profess not to have voted for or even agree with it. On the moral strength of that contract, which is based on a desire for smaller government and less intervention in the lives of people the Republicans could have rationally fought the socialist garbage pouring out of the White House and earned the respect of the people.

The global warming issue?

Tell the folks in Texas how energy taxes would have smoked two million jobs and created a new government bureaucracy and see if anyone would have voted Democrat.

The issue of dumping social security for a privatized system?

Tell Middle America that they would earn better rates of return and not stiff future generations and see how popular the Cato Institute's web site becomes.

School vouchers?

Just wait until Middle America learns what inner city families already know and want: You actually can empower yourself and send a child to a private or above average public school with your own money.

And on and on. They are issues that resonate with Americans because they allow them to take command of their own futures, the perfect example of Rush Limbaugh's "Rugged Individualism".

The problem was that things changed in 1995, the last time the Republicans had a discernable ideology. The Democrats counterattacked with arguments how mean Newt and the Republicans were, with help from their willing thralls in the media, and the so-called Republican Revolution fell apart faster than an average relationship that I'm involved in. Newt became timid and that's all she wrote. Remember him kissing up to Clinton in that famous photo-op, telling America how he and the President would now work together? The so-called Republican Revolution ended with a whimper before it could make the fundamental changes it promised.

So when the Lewinsky scandal broke in January, all the Republicans had left to attack the President with was what he enjoyed doing when Hillary is busy trying to raise other people's children...or whatever her book was telling us to do.

And the blame goes back to Newt and those Republicans who kowtowed to the Religious Right's plan to attack Clinton on only the scandal, a group of people that didn't even bother to vote in strength this year. Their vigor in wanting to prosecute Clinton for his sexual practices finally revealed that the Republicans had abandoned the revolution to try and knock Clinton off for personal reasons.

Obviously Clinton's escapades finally showed him for what we all knew the whole time. He's what my grandmother would call a cad. He lies and is unprincipled and would have resigned if he had an ounce of class. The problem was that the Republicans didn't look too much better.

So it's crunch time now for the Republicans. November 3 revealed a subtle shift in favour of the Democrats, a shift that can turn into a trend that turns into Al Gore as president in 2000 if they aren't careful. The Republicans have to go back to what made them popular in 1994: ideology.

It's an ideology that while not perfect, stresses smaller government, free markets and the rights of individuals. Sounds familiar? Americans liked it once and they'll like it again. Americans are naturally conservative and will vote for the candidate who gives them rational conservative policies.

This doesn't mean occasionally talking up policy so that people don't think you're only banging on impeachment, it means letting the hearings run their course and concentrate on getting the Contract with America message and its successor out into the public forum.

So have the Republicans learned anything since November 3? Not much apparently.

Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston will be the next Speaker of the House when it resumes sitting in January. He's already made noises that he wants to work in partnership with the Democrats in the spirit of consensus, roughly meaning that he's a pragmatist who will sell out traditional Republican values if it means looking good for the folks back home.

And one interesting fact about Livingston reveals for who he might be voting for in the next session. When it comes down to free markets or increased government intervention, he's spoken clearly.

He voted with the liberals 44 per cent of the time on economic matters.

Where is my copy of the Starr Report?

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