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What the Pa. revolution means for the rest of nation

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Disillusion Republicans Leave Santorum in Perilous Position for November

What the Pa. revolution means for the rest of nation

On July 7, 2005, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a massive pay increase for its members. The raises ranged in size from 18% to 54%, with the increases based on a legislators position in spite of the fact that the state’s Constitution clearly prohibits this. In addition, the legislators began taking the raise immediately in the form of "unvouchered expenses," again despite clear Constitutional language forbidding a member from taking a raise in the term that it was passed. As many now know, Pennsylvanians revolted.

Using blogs, talk radio, and letters to the editor pages, voters and activists ousted one Supreme Court judge (for the first time in history) and ejected the Senate president pro tempore (the victor won by nine points, even in a three-way race), the Senate majority leader (by a margin of 60-40), and 15 other incumbents.

The Pennsylvania state legislature will look drastically different in January, but there are national implications to this revolution as well. The most obvious is the upcoming re-election of Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.). Santorum’s chances are relatively slim at this point, but the May 16 primary provides even more depressing indicators.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann garnered 22,000 more votes than Santorum. Swann has already been written off entirely by the conservative reform movement and its leaders for his extremely close ties to the recently ousted incumbents, so when he outperforms Santorum among Republicans, this is an indicator that Santorum is really in trouble.

Santorum’s incumbency isn’t as much the problem as the fact that the recent primary communicated to conservatives across Pennsylvania that they no longer have to "settle." The sweeping victories convinced them that they are able to run strong conservative candidates and win against impossible odds. In this environment, Republicans are likely to look at Rick Santorum and his past betrayals, shrug their shoulders and walk away. There’s a feeling of "no compromise" right now that Santorum is going to have a hard time overcoming. Many conservatives were prepared to withhold their support before May 16. Now that they’ve won big all across the state, the likelihood that that will happen increases significantly. This may be a primary reason that Santorum slid 5 points and Casey gained 5 points in the first poll conducted after the primary.

Beyond Santorum, there are other lessons to be taken from Pennsylvania right now. The Republican Party has drifted from its base conservative values. Voters in Pennsylvania are holding elected leaders accountable, and national Republicans can expect a similar day of reckoning. The revolution in Pennsylvania was not over the pay raise, although that surely was the catalyst. The targeted incumbents also voted for tax increases, oversaw huge expansions of government, and had become entrenched, abusive, and self-serving. Sound familiar, national Republicans?

Pennsylvanians proved that you can beat the money and the power of incumbency if you can communicate your message to the voters. Granted, the legislative pay grab opened the voters’ eyes and made communicating a conservative message much easier, but the point is that it can be done. Moreover, the voters want change. They just may not know it yet. National Republicans need to focus on shrinking government, cutting taxes, meaningful immigration reform, and the host of other issues that the conservative base cares about. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s probably too late.

The conservative wing of the Republican Party is going to revolt. If not this cycle, then it will happen soon. Republicans must brace themselves for a "wilderness period." We’re going to be wandering in the desert soon, in the minority and irrelevant. What we need to accept, though, is that this can be a good thing. Our party has abandoned its values and its voters. Our leadership is weak-kneed on the issues that matter the most. The best way to cure these ills is to spend some time out of power. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality.

This doesn’t mean that Republicans should abandon their party or that they should vote for Democrats. A falling from grace is imminent, but that doesn’t mean that Republican voters should speed it along. We should, however, place our principles above our party. If that means withholding your vote from a Republican incumbent who has abandoned you, do it. Pennsylvania Republicans proved that we can demand more from our party, and that when they abandon us, it is perfectly viable to defeat them in primaries with real Republicans.

Republicans need to stop regurgitating Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment, "Though shall not speak ill of another Republican," and instead focus on the principles and beliefs that shaped Reagan’s entire career. Most notably, Republicans should take this Reagan quote to heart, "A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs, which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell numbers. … And if there are those that cannot subscribe to these principals, then let them go their way."

Many on the right will criticize these tactics and beliefs, decrying extremism, ideological purity, etc. However, if all Republicans would wake up to the fact that we are allowing the left to win by continuing to elect Republicans that have betrayed our values simply because they are Republicans, our party would return what it once was: the party of conservative values. It is incumbent upon conservatives across the nation to heed the lesson taught by the voters of Pennsylvania. Republicans must start acting like Republicans, and we must hold them accountable when they don’t.

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Written By

Mr. High is a political activist and editor of FreePA.org.

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