Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Will Republicans Be Good Winners?
"There's nothing to winning really. That is, if you happen to be blessed with a keen eye, and agile mind, and no scruples whatsoever."
- Alfred Hitchcock
I thought about this on the day after the election, as Republicans and Conservatives (they are overlapping, but not congruent terms) were celebrating their electoral victory. Don't get me wrong, I was happy that they won (Conservatives, not necessarily Republicans). Unlike the president and most of the 'slipstream media' (so named because they appear to be dropping further and further behind in the wake as a legitimate news source), I did in fact take this victory as a repudiation of the policies (not necessarily the people) of the last two years.
It certainly appeared that the American people in general and the Tea Party Movement members in particular were fed up with a government interested in passing sweeping omnibus legislation without knowledge of its contents and against the strong objections of voters. Since this is a representative republic, those voters appeared more than willing to reject representatives who don't represent, and turned out elected officials who chose party solidarity over meeting their job description. I was also pleased with the humble tone that at least that prospective Speaker of the House John Boehner took in speaking about the victory. It actually appeared that he understood the limited license that had just been granted, for this was not as much an endorsement of the Republicans as it was a repudiation of the Democratic agenda of the last two years. While many of the Democrats do not appear to be good losers in this contest, I wonder how many Republicans will be good winners.
This is not about turning out more Democrats (including the president) in two years as the current minority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell, seems to believe. Neither is this about running up a score in either the House or the Senate. Mr McConnell seems to be confusing elections with some form of athletic contest where the concern of those on the sidelines is nothing more than which team wins. While I am sure that there are some in the country who may believe that way, recent elections have shown them to be the minority. How else do you explain the regular turn over of Congress in recent years? The American people by and large are not fanatics for one side or another in the game (and are increasingly looking for a 3rd alternative), but instead want government to serve their needs.
True, there is certainly some debate and confusion as to what those needs are, how they should be served, and what role government should play; but that's what's really being contested in recent elections. Republicans, after years of laboring in the minority, got their chance to set the agenda in 1994 when after writing their "Contract For America" they took control of the House and Senate and proceeded to squander it.
After a few months of grandiose speeches and token efforts, things went back to business as usual and government continued to grow in scope, scale, and level of personal encroachment. Republicans sent to Washington not only stood by and watched it happen, they often caused it. They got the White House back as well in 2000, which you think would have allowed them to do what voters actually sent them to do, but the budget and government continued to grow and become ever more intrusive.
Little surprise then that by 2006 voters had gotten fed up with more of the same and turned them out, and by 2008 had repudiated their lack of principles decisively. Now only two years later, they find themselves returning to control of at least one House of Congress. What will they do and how long will they do it for?
Will Republicans stand on the principles that they espoused in campaign speeches while seeking office and gaining the favor of Conservative and Independent voters, or return the the parasitic policies that both they and the Democrats seem to favor; regardless of the increasing damage that it does to the taxpayer host? Will they attempt to walk back some of the over-reaching of government that both parties are responsible for over recent years or make merely token efforts that can be noted by the media and pointed to in their next re-election campaign?
As they consider these questions, as well as their duties and responsibilities, Republicans (and Democrats as well) might do well to remember the words of long-time Alabama football coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant:
"When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don't repeat it."