Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: Where does GOP go from here?
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|Where does GOP go from here?|
More than history was made on Tuesday, Nov. 4, with the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. The intoxicated, Obama- obsessed media has already exhausted all of the appropriate (and inappropriate) metaphors for the occasion, so I won't go there.
Instead, I want to focus on the unraveling of a political party that began with the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" (sometimes called 'nickelbee for its abbreviation of NCLB). Here, President George W. Bush worked with Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and California Rep. George Miller, both of whom are Democrats, to develop a federal response to America's lagging public school. Leaving aside the 10th Amendment, this legislation was not founded on conservative principles or what the Republican Party had claimed to represent over the past 60 years.
The essence of conservativism is smaller government through lower taxes and less spending that allows individuals to make informed choices. A program that costs more than $55 billion and sets federal requirements for spending in education, a distinctly state or local issue, is not conservative. Requiring standards that teach toward test-taking is not education.
Then, adding prescription drug benefits for seniors as part of the Medicare Act of 2003 (another Ted Kennedy inspiration) has saddled taxpayers with even more burdens. One political analyst called this measure the "greatest expansion in America's welfare state in 40 years." That is hardly what one would expect from a "conservative."
Nevermind that Bush cut taxes, which is in-line with conservative thinking. His budgets were one of his big downfalls. Further, waging an expensive war in Iraq has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat. And, no conservative thinker believes that democracy can be imported via regime change without an organic acceptance of the underlying values of democracy, liberty and equality.
So what is the dilemma?
It's the Republican brand that is suffering, not conservativism.
John McCain ran as a moderate with a track record of bipartisanship and support that only looks good to those with no intention of supporting him in the first place. The media always fell over themselves to embrace him because he frequently poked his finger in the eye of social conservatives. The second he became the nominee McCain was presented as a different sort of maverick. In other words, he was useful until he became a potential threat.
So where do Republicans go from here?
Many will argue that moving closer to the left (where Obama, Pelosi and Reid are) will engender support and translate into House victories by 2010. But the Republicans have a much deeper problem now. They are out of power in the White House and the Legislative branch and will see Obama appoint at least two Supreme Court justices. They are scrambling for a national voice that Sarah Palin can never become. Another Republican (Ted Stevens of Alaska) has been indicted and convicted of ethics violations.
You cannot be the party of small government, lower taxes and social conservativism and administer policy the way they have done in the last several years.
This means Republicans will have to find their conservative roots again. They will have to find issues that resonate with and are believed by the public. Most Americans do favor a limited government. Most do want to benefit from their hard work. Most believe they make better decisions about how to spend their money than those in Washington, DC.
But, people are also scared. And when they are scared, they want hope. They want change. Obama convinced Americans across party lines, races and ethnic groups that he could be that change. Now, he has four years to deliver.
And Republicans need to start today by asking themselves what do they stand for. They need to evaluate what it means to be a Republican.
If being a Republican is no different than being a Democrat, then Republicans will suffer more and more defeats.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.