As I write this column, three days after the midterm elections, the Democrats have taken over the House of Representatives and, with the concession of Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.), have captured the Senate as well.
Make no mistake about it—this is Republican loss and not a conservative loss.
Republicans lost because the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership too often cavalierly abandoned the populist conservative message and policies of President Ronald Reagan.
For far too long the American people have come to view the conservative movement and the Republican Party as one and the same. Indeed, they are not.
Conservatives need to re-establish their identity and independence from Republicanism. The Bush Administration has been hijacked by neo-conservatives who believe in “big government conservatism.” The very phase is an oxymoron—designed to give cover for big government intervention in both the domestic and foreign policy arenas.
The neo-conservatives support open borders, expansion of the education bureaucracy and promoting democracy in the Mideast through military intervention.
Republicans paid a heavy price at the ballot box for their failure over the last few years to live up to the ideals and standards which the American people believed they represented when they took the House of Representatives from the Democrats a decade ago and when Bush won the presidency in 2000.
This election turned out to be just what many conservatives had feared—a referendum on the performance of the Bush White House and the Republican Congress, rather than a contest between the two competing party’s visions for America.
Republicans lost touch with almost every element of their base.
Economic conservatives could not understand it when the Bush White House teamed up with Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) on “big government” legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare prescription drug bill. And they could not understand why “conservative” leaders such as former Rep. Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.) carried the water for the President on behalf of this massive expansion of government.
Conservatives were perhaps most dismayed with the administration’s failure to secure our borders and to deal with illegal immigration. And many conservatives such as Bill Buckley, Brent Scowcroft and Pat Buchanan were skeptical early on about the war with Iraq which they viewed as unnecessary and not a part of the War on Terror.
To further complicate matters, Republicans—who were elected by promising the highest standards of integrity—were involved in one scandal after another involving members of Congress, Republicans lobbyists and some members of the Bush Administration.
Exit polls indicated that the American electorate had become more than skeptical regarding the war in Iraq, concerned about the war on terrorism and the scandals in Washington.
One final nail in the coffin of the GOP was the failure “at all levels of government” in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (One note: In my opinion this emphatically excludes the leadership by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi in efforts exhibited in rebuilding his state.)
In short—the mid term elections can be summed as crisis of confidence in the GOP controlled Congress and the Bush White House.
Sadly, it seems that the “Party of Reagan” has been hijacked by the neo-cons, the big government crowd and the pragmatists.
The debate for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and the conservative movement has begun. Let’s hope we are up to the job.
The question is this: Do we want do the stay the course or do we want to want to return to the “Party of Reagan?”