If your son hadn’t studied quite as hard as he should have for a history test, would you hope that he flunked badly in order to, “teach him a lesson?” If you goofed off at work a few times, do you think it would make sense for your employer to fire you and hire someone who spends all day sleeping in your place? If your favorite football team lost a few games to mediocre opponents during the season, would you root for them to lose the Super Bowl in hopes that they would be better the next year?
The answer to all those questions is, "no." You still want your son to pass the test, you want to keep your job, and you want to see your team win — which brings us to the Republican Party in the 2006 elections. Why do we have Republicans publicly hoping that the GOP loses in order to, "teach them a lesson?" Does taking that attitude really make a lot of sense? Does it really make sense to say:
"I’m angry at the Republicans because they didn’t do what I wanted them to do on a few issues, so I am going to withhold my vote and help the Democrats get into office. Then, instead of having Republicans in office who don’t represent my views on a few issues, I’ll be represented by Democrats who also disagree with me on those same issues and another 40 or 50 issues besides!"
Aren’t there any other ways to punish the Republican Party other than not voting? How about not contributing money or declining to volunteer for candidates you disagree with? How about just hitting them with full-throated criticism when they don’t do the right thing?
You’d think that would be enough, but it’s not for some people. No, these diehard conservatives have got to stay home and encourage everyone else to do the same thing. Why? Because supposedly, that’s what the GOP understands! Losing elections.
The problem with this attitude is that it is incredibly short sighted. There’s an assumption that lost seats can easily be recaptured in another election, that spending would go down if Democrats ran the House, and that the Democrats can’t do that much damage if they’re in office. None of these assumptions is necessarily or even likely true.
If the GOP loses a Senate seat, they don’t even get another crack at it for 6 years. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the GOP can pick the seat back up. If you don’t believe that, just look at West Virginia, which has gone Republican in the last two Presidential elections. Meanwhile, who is their senior representative in the Senate? Robert Byrd, who was first elected in 1959. Is that really the best way to, "teach the Republican Party a lesson?" By not voting in 2006 and watching Democratic senators take office who may still be there in 2050?
The House can produce some startling results, too. If you don’t believe that, look to Utah’s 2nd District where George Bush crushed John Kerry 66% to 31% in 2004. So, which Republican represents that district? Actually, since 2000, the representative for that district has been Democrat Jim Matheson, who is an odds-on favorite to win again in 2006. The fact that a Democrat can hold a district like that tells you a lot about the power of incumbency. That advantage that incumbents have means that the Democrat who gets into office in 2006 may be there decades from now, especially if that district only leans Republican by a few points or is split evenly.
Then there’s spending. A lot of Republicans assume that because divided government in the nineties produced a balanced budget, that divided government in 2006 would do the same thing. Unfortunately, that’s a very foolish assumption. The Reaganites that came into power in 1994 were fiscal conservatives who got elected, in part, because they promised to clamp down on spending. The Democrats are the party of big government and they’re not running on slashing spending. If anything, it’s likely that we would see the size of the deficit increase significantly if the Democrats took over as they raked in more pork for their constituents and pushed to expand the size and power of government. Sure, the Democrats may hate Bush. But, they don’t hate him so much that they’re going to stop spending money just to spite him. That’s just not part of their nature.
Also, consider the enormous consequences of which party is in power. At the presidential level, think of Lyndon Johnson rapidly escalating the war in Vietnam while simultaneously putting rules in place that made it impossible for our troops to achieve victory. Then there’s Jimmy Carter, the man who gave away the Panama Canal and set in motion the conflict that has led to our current standoff over nuclear arms with Iran. Next up, what about Bill Clinton, the guy who allowed North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons? While it would be unfair to blame the "Big Dog" for 9/11, it is fair to say that if a Republican had been in office, it’s highly unlikely that he would have rejected Sudan’s offer to turn over Osama bin Laden wrapped in a bow, as Clinton did back in 1996. Does that mean that if George Bush, Sr. had not been turned out of office in 1992 because Republican voters wanted to, "teach him a lesson," that there might not have been a 9/11? In a word, "yes!"
The House is just as important as the presidency. We’ve already discussed spending, but what about illegal immigration, which is the other big issue where the GOP has let down conservatives? Well, it was the Republicans in the House who stood like blocks of granite and prevented an amnesty plan from becoming the law of the land. Moreover, Roy Blunt, a member of the House Leadership, has already pledged that the House Republicans will continue to take an enforcement-first approach to illegal immigration after the election. In other words, whether we end up stopping the flow of illegals into this country or have another amnesty is entirely dependent on whether the GOP stays in control of the House.
Then there are the judges. If another Supreme Court seat opens up and the GOP isn’t in control of the Senate, you can forget about getting another Alito or Roberts. Instead we’re going to get another Kennedy or O’Connor. Could we see the funds for our troops cut off in Iraq if the Democrats take over? Yes. Will they try to raise taxes? Yes. Will they try to impeach George Bush? Yes. In other words, if you’re a conservative and you’re “against it,” that’s what the Congress will be “for” if the Democrats take over.
Last but not least, look at it like this: there is a huge guaranteed downside to putting the Democrats back in power and no guaranteed upside. Furthermore, if anyone thinks that taking Republicans like Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, and Conrad Burns out of power and replacing them with Ted Kennedy clones is going to make things better for the Republican Party and the country, he’s making a serious error in judgment. Flawed though they may be, the Republican Party is the tool with which conservatives advance our agenda in Washington. If we want to see that agenda implemented, we need more Republicans in Congress, not less. That’s why it’s far better for conservatives to get Republicans into office and cajole them into toeing the line — than to stand by as they’re replaced by Democrats that we have no influence over whatsoever. So, a setback for the Republican Party is a setback for conservatism, like it or not. That’s something every conservative would do well to remember when November rolls around.