The last few weeks have been dismal for Republicans. In baseball parlance, you might say that the GOP finds itself in the middle of a spring batting slump. With the President’s approval ratings plunging to new lows on a seemingly daily basis and those of the Republican-led Congress even closer to the Mendoza Line of public opinion (a recent CBS poll showed approval of Congress at 23%), it would seem as though GOP prospects for post-season play (that is, electoral success in November) are minute.
Even worse for Republicans, it’s angry conservatives who are driving down approval ratings of President Bush (half of conservatives disapprove) and the GOP-led Congress (65% of conservatives disapprove). That’s like getting booed in your home park by season ticket holders.
There’s still hope, however. If Republicans bench their ineffectual, moderate agenda and pinch-hit with a bold, conservative one, they may yet be able to turn around their spring slump and salvage a winning season in time for a stretch run to an Election Day victory in November.
Republicans should lead off by addressing the scourge of wasteful spending. With Republicans on the mound, there has been a surge in pork barrel spending and enactment of the largest new entitlement in 40 years, the Medicare drug benefit. The Treasury Department recently reported that government spending hit an all-time high for a single month in March. In all, spending has increased 42% and inflation-adjusted domestic discretionary spending has risen more under Bush than it did under big spending Democrat Lyndon Johnson. That fact prompted columnist Andrew Sullivan to wonder, “Is Bush a socialist? He’s spending like one.” He’s not, of course, and he can start to recapture his reputation as a responsible fiscal conservative by going to the bullpen for the veto.
As Congress considers budget reform legislation, it should include forced spending restraint procedures, a presidential line-item veto, and measures that create better transparency in the budget writing process. Congress should also terminate corporate welfare and use the savings for capital gains and business tax cuts. Finally, the government should privatize activities that could be performed better by the private sector, such as Amtrak and public broadcasting.
Second, while reasonable people can disagree about the specifics of immigration reform legislation, most Americans understand the importance of common language to a nation as diverse as ours. Thus, Congress should pass the English Language Unity Act, which would establish English as the official language of the United States. As Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the bill’s sponsor, noted, “English is the language of opportunity in America. Learning English opens doors to better jobs and opportunities. … The only way to fully learn about American culture, and what makes America truly unique, is through our common bond of the English language.”
Polling on the issue suggests broad support for making English our official language. One recent Zogby poll found that 84% of Americans want English to be our official language. That figure included 91% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats, 77% of independents, and even 71% of Hispanics. Now that’s a homerun!
Third, in June the Senate will vote on a federal marriage amendment to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. When Congress took the same vote in 2004, many politicians on both teams opposed the amendment. While not one senator would publicly say that he or she supported gay marriage, many dismissed a federal amendment as unnecessary because marriage was a state issue and no federal judge had threatened the meaning of marriage. A year later, a single judge overturned Nebraska’s state marriage amendment, which passed with 70% of the vote in 2000. More recently, on May 16 a Georgia judge overturned that state’s marriage amendment. Clearly, a federal marriage amendment is the only certain way to protect marriage once and for all. Currently, the amendment has the support of 52 senators, eight short of the 60 needed to end a liberal filibuster.
Polls consistently show overwhelming public opposition to same-sex nuptials, and a majority now supports a federal amendment to protect normal marriage. The White House and Congress should act decisively in defense of the most important building block of healthy families and successful societies.
Finally, Republicans must, and I mean must, overcome any differences they have with the president on the war and stand firmly beside him on all foreign policy matters — from Iraq and Iran, to the situation in Israel. As Mr. Bush’s European friends continue to fall prey to war-weary electorates (Aznar in Spain, Berlusconi in Italy, soon Blair in Britain), he needs to find more of them in his Republican Congress. In an overheated international climate that shows no signs of cooling off, it is imperative that the GOP come together as a team and present a unified front to voters on matters of national security.
President Bush and this Republican Congress came to Washington swinging for the fences with an ambitious agenda of fiscal reform, spending cuts and family values. They have yet to step up to the plate and adequately address these goals. And, just as struggling baseball teams often find it difficult to draw disenchanted fans back to the ballpark, if the GOP fails to achieve any meaningful legislative victories this summer, it may find itself without the voter turnout it needs to maintain a majority come November.