No sooner had the Republicans won their famous victory than the liberal establishment in Washington, D.C., started advising the GOP to govern the country as if they were Democrats.
A front-page story in the Washington <>em>Post last week examined what the paper called the Bush Administrations and the Republican congressional leaderships "calculated effort to position themselves in the political center for the 2004 campaign." The story, largely based on unnamed sources, said many Republicans were worried about "overreaching."
That is how the Post describes "governing like conservatives."
Deep into the story the paper claimed that the Republicans "biggest priority for now is securing the most generous drug benefit possible."
It was as if Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been resurrected with Lyndon Johnson as Senate majority leader-only now FDR and LBJ were the leaders of an all-Republican government.
The next day the Post ran a piece suggesting the White House was worried that the real Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) might suddenly become too much of a red-hot pro-lifer. "Lotts Promise to Bring Up Abortion Worries Bush Aides," screamed the headline. Of course, the Bush aides were again unnamed.
And what was the pro-life promise Lott had made? When asked about the partial-birth abortion ban that has repeatedly passed both houses of Congress by large bipartisan majorities, and that President Bush has vowed to sign, Lott said, "I will call it up, we will pass it, and the President will sign it. Im making that commitment-you can write it down."
Although he stalled on bringing it up for a vote this year, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle voted for the partial-birth abortion ban last time it came up. Lotts promise to bring it up again is far from radical, and also is far from a clear signal that the all-Republican Congress intends to pursue an aggressive conservative agenda.
Indeed, some Republican conservatives fear that the liberals may get their way. They fear that their party, having at long last taken firm control of the entire federal government, will now take leave of its principles.
This would be not only a moral error, but a political one.
Polls conducted even by liberal news organizations show that the country is behind the Republicans now because the majority of Americans share the basic values of the Republican Party. They expect Republicans to govern like Republicans.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll taken immediately after the election showed how deeply the conservative vision of public policy has taken hold in this country. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they believed the "political views" of the Republican Party were "about right," while 10% said they were "too liberal." In other words, 61% believe the Republican vision is either right where it should be or not right enough.
If the Republicans were to move left now, they would be moving to the left of the American public.
This is true-perhaps even especially true-on issues the Democrats and the liberal press have tried to use in demonizing Republicans. For example, the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll asked people if they favored allowing "people to put a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts that would be invested in private stocks and bonds."
Fifty-seven percent said yes they do favor this. By contrast, only 55% approve of the way President Bush is handling the economy. Social Security privatization is more popular than the economic policies Bush is pursuing right now.
More to the point, the 57% support for Social Security privatization was up from the 52% support in enjoyed two months before the election. The effort of the left to defeat Republican candidates by accusing them of hatching a risky scheme that would destroy Social Security not only resulted in more Republicans being elected, but also in more Americans favoring Social Security privatization. (See page 24.)
A couple more election cycles like this and Americans may be ready to abolish the income tax and close down the federal Department of Education.
On another economic issue, where Democrats accused Republicans of pushing a "tax cut for the rich," Americans said they favored permanently abolishing all inheritance taxes by a margin of 50% to 46%.
But what about those right-wing judges and Supreme Court justices a Republican Senate is likely to confirm for a Republican President-the ones that are going to overturn Roe v. Wade and throw the debate over abortion back into every state legislature in America? The ones who back "strict construction" of the Constitution? The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll asked people if they considered it a "good thing [or a] bad thing" that the Senate would now probably confirm Bushs judicial nominees. Sixty percent said it was a "good thing." Only 31% said it was a bad thing.
What does that mean politically? It means that in addition to virtually all the Republicans, many so-called swing voters and even some Democrats want to see Bushs judges confirmed. It means that in what will likely be the biggest battle of the next two years-the fight to replace a retiring Supreme Court justice-Bush and the Republicans will benefit politically if the Democrats engage in another Borking. And, of course, the nation will benefit tremendously if another Bork is nominated and confirmed.
The conservative activists who have spent their lives working for a Republican majority expect and deserve a party that lives up to the decades of commitments it has made to bring our government back within the limits set for it by the Constitution, and back under the system of traditional values that are the true guarantor of American freedom.
The full agenda is long, and may take years to completely enact. But the fight must begin now, or never. Just do it.