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November 16, 2006
Whither The GOP?

After the midterm elections, many of us hoped that the Republican Party would return to conservative First Principles in an attempt to recapture the energy that propelled them to majority status in 1994. Refocusing on the bedrock principles of limited government, fiscal discipline, strong national defense, and ethical governance would allow the GOP to reconnect to voters that grew to mistrust the Republicans after the last six years of big-government bloat and pork-barrel politicking.

Unfortunately, the leadership elections show that Republicans have not listened to their constituents, both present and former. Both House and Senate caucuses have chosen to support an old guard that led them back into the wilderness last week. At least in one case, John Boehner, some Republicans can justify that decision by noting that Boehner was in the wrong place at the wrong time, since he only served as Majority Leader since January, when Tom DeLay resigned. However, any pretense of reform was lost when the Senate caucus elected Trent Lott as its Minority Whip. Lott showed himself to be another iteration of the arrogant, out-of-touch old-style pol that manipulates federal dollars for political gain, and who doesn't cotton to criticism of his game-playing.

A truly conservative party would not celebrate that kind of behavior. A truly conservative party works for limited government and smaller federal budgets, because conservatives understand that the more money the federal government gets, the more power it aggregates to itself -- and the more politicians like Lott can use that power to secure their own lifetime sinecures at public expense.

Obviously, the GOP offers little in legislative leadership to inspire conservatives. What of the party's leading presidential candidates? The front runners are Rudy Giuliani, an admirable leader but definitely not a conservative, and John McCain, who just opened his exploratory bid. McCain wants to campaign for those First Principles conservatives, as the AP reports:

"We departed rather tragically from our conservative principles," McCain lamented recently, offering his take on why the GOP fell from power in Congress. He urged a return to what he called the foundation of the Republican Party — restrained spending, smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense and family values.

Fifteen months before the first 2008 presidential nominating contests, McCain is positioning himself as the Republican standard-bearer while President Bush takes on lame-duck status and dispirited party faithful search for a road to recovery. The election cycle was sobering, with GOP candidates losing at all levels of government.

The four-term Arizona senator will deliver back-to-back speeches Thursday to organizations considered conservative cornerstones of the Republican Party — the Federalist Society and GOPAC. He will discuss the current and future state of the GOP.

Unfortunately for conservatives, the one candidate who espouses those First Principles is the one who famously betrayed them four years ago. McCain thought big government worked just fine when he sponsored the BCRA (McCain-Feingold), which curtailed political speech and protected incumbents from attack ads in the guise of taking money out of politics. A conservative would never trade free political speech for a top-down solution to any ill, let alone political advertisements. Never. Anyone who does simply cannot be trusted to implement limited-government solutions to any problem, ever.

Outside of Newt Gingrich, even the second-tier candidates offer nothing but the same kind of big-government Republicanism that has characterized the George Bush terms in office. Gingrich could make a comeback, but he has some unfortunate personal issues that will handicap him, and given what happened in the late Clinton years, there are questions about his tenacity on these First Principles as well. We have no Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater on the horizon, at least not yet, and the GOP is moving away from that direct at light speed in the new Congressional leadership races -- at least so far.

It may be time to take Mark Tapscott's advice, offered over the summer, and look outside the GOP for alternate methods of pursuing conservativism. All we find there is a nest of those who want to manipulate federal power as an engine for their own agendas, instead of reducing its reach and its intrusiveness. We have at least a year to see whether we can be more effective outside the party -- because the Republicans seem intent on proving that we have no place inside it any more.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 16, 2006 6:32 AM

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» Alternatives to the Republican Party from Good Will Hinton
Captain Ed has this to say this morning: "It may be time to take Mark Tapscott's advice, offered over the summer, and look outside the GOP for alternate methods of pursuing conservativism. All we find there is a nest of those who want to manipulate federa [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2006 7:36 AM

» Alternatives to the Republican Party from Good Will Hinton
Captain Ed has this to say this morning: "It may be time to take Mark Tapscott's advice, offered over the summer, and look outside the GOP for alternate methods of pursuing conservativism. All we find there is a nest of those who want to manipulate federa [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2006 7:36 AM

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Hmm. I guess even some of the conservative luminaries in blogdom are not scared of the "Losertarian" name-calling tactics ala Medved anymore. There's not one person on earth that can explain what in the world could be wrong with the [Read More]

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» I'm beginning to think 3rd party from Bill's Bites
Whither The GOP?Ed Morrissey After the midterm elections, many of us hoped that the Republican Party would return to conservative First Principles in an attempt to recapture the energy that propelled them to majority status in 1994. Refocusing on the [Read More]

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