A Realist Approach to Republican Governance

The fight, ultimately, is not going to be won in the halls of the current Congress, nor, certainly, the White House; nor will success be achieved by abandoning certain tenants on the basis of nothing more than uypopular opinion that is informed more by Rolling Stone magazine, Comedy Central, and an appeal to license, than by The Wall Street Journal, C-SPAN, and inherited wisdom.

One of the peculiarities of American politics is the astonishment that washes over some people when they realize that the people they elected act like they have been elected.

Elections, as the oft-quoted (and just as often forgotten) aphorism goes, have consequences. We are just now starting to see those consequences – just now, that is, providing that the previous four years have slipped the mind.

The President’s imperious attitude and obdurate implementation of a leftist program – evidenced by the intransigent insistence on marginal tax hikes, his Cabinet nominees (i.e, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Jack Lew), and most recently his theatrical announcement (using 5th graders as polemical landscape) concerning his gun control proposals, some of which he enacted by executive fiat – are the initial consequences of a failure to persuade 50 + 1% of voters in the county that there is a wiser path. Surely there is more, and worse, yet to come, seeing as all this has happened even before the President’s second swearing-in.

The one bright spot on this scene is that at least one institution – the House of Representatives – remains obstinately outside the controlling grip of the statists, able, one furtively hopes, to prevent the most egregious intrusions on the life and property of the nation’s citizens.

The House Republicans are increasingly facing internal pressures though, besieged on one side by an unrealistic expectation of quixotic heroism, and on the other by a presumption of the need for appeasement and acquiescence on certain positions.

More than a few conservatives are enraged over the apparent apoplexy of elected Republicans in Washington, especially in regards to the failure to stave off tax increases or enact spending cuts during the fiscal cliff negotiations. The insinuation is that the GOP leadership is infected with a lack of principle, making them effectively no better than their Democratic opponents.

The fact is, had Milton Friedman been the Speaker, William F. Buckley the House Majority Leader, and Barry Goldwater the Senate minority leader, the outcome would not have been appreciably different.

Charles Krauthammer made an astute point, as he often does, in his column last Friday, saying that “From a single house of Congress you can resist but you cannot impose.”

A tad sobering, but true. The stark reality is that for the near future, Republicans are limited to presenting conservative programs, and applying conservative approaches incrementally to specific issues, in a defensive effort to keep the proverbial ball from going too far left, and perhaps even position it for delivery in the right direction when the opportunity presents.

The need for tactical prudence, however, does not absolve the GOP of the duties inherent to the opposition. As I mentioned in an earlier column, Republicans do indeed have a duty to present conservative solutions to problems, both existing ones, and the ones that are sure to be created by the Party that does have the ability to impose. The idea is that in order to be able to implement such beneficial solutions, the prerequisite task is to convince enough of the people that your solutions are sound and proper – not as determined by pop culture or the fantasies of Paul Krugman, but by history, empirical evidence, and right reason.

But tactically, that is about as far as it goes. Republicans can (and ought to) talk until they are blue in the face about the need for spending limits, entitlement reform, and tax overhaul; about limiting government to its proper and fundamental roles, the virtues of restoring the functionality of the 9th and 10th (and 2nd ) amendments, and returning responsibility and dollars to the states; about curbing the overreach of the EPA, or the harm done to American education by federalizing it, or the harm done to the nation’s poor by the myriad of programs myopically invented to eradicate poverty – but as long as a Party which is fundamentally opposed to such principles controls the Senate and the Executive, it is foolish to expect that any of these reforms, however propitious they may be, will be engaged.

The fight, ultimately, is not going to be won in the halls of the current Congress, nor, certainly, the White House; nor will success be achieved by abandoning certain tenants on the basis of nothing more than uypopular opinion that is informed more by Rolling Stone magazine, Comedy Central, and an appeal to license, than by The Wall Street Journal, C-SPAN, and inherited wisdom. It will be achieved only by convincing those masses of the rightness of conservative ideas, ahead of future elections. The Democrats can even help by continuing to provide the consequences of such contests.

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