Republicans were elected to the House in 1994 on a grand promise to cut taxes, government, and spending. They were elected to rein in the government largess after 40 years of one-party rule. It was a revolution for the Republican Party. The movement started by Barry Goldwater had finally reached the pinnacle of politics—a majority believed in the conscience of Conservatives.
The intentions were good, and the 12-year era of Republican rule accomplished some enormous tasks. Welfare reform under a Democratic president has cut the welfare rolls by nearly half since 1996. The economy is strong, thanks to much needed tax cuts enacted by the Bush Administration. Unemployment is at a record low 4.4%, and the Dow continues to perform well. Fully 70% of Americans own their home, and according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages are rising.
However, the party that established a Contract with America has strayed far from that document. After a few years, Republicans began to trade principles for power, which is never a good choice, no matter what party is in power. Pork became king, and deals were brokered to ensure re-election by bringing home the bacon.
In 1994, 1,500 pork projects were stuffed into Democratic spending bills. In fiscal 2006, Republicans allowed 15,000 such projects to be inserted into the appropriations bills by members of both parties, at a cost of more than $10 billion according to the Wall Street Journal, which is approximately 24% of our current budget deficit of $248 billion. This figure doesn’t even take into account the amount of money that has been “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Fund in the past several decades to pay for pet projects. Through their spending policies, Republicans have disenchanted their conservative base by acting like Democrats on steroids. The Wall Street Journal reported that even after Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R.-Alaska) “Bridge to Nowhere” was exposed, “Republicans” continued to defend the pork.
Perhaps most disappointing was the Republican sponsored Medicare prescription drug act. This new entitlement program was the largest expansion of government since the 1960s. The vote on the bill was kept open for an unprecedented three hours while “Republican” leaders twisted the arms of reluctant conservatives in an effort to get them to vote yes. The Medicare Part D program was a source of discontent for the conservative base.
The No Child Left Behind Act didn’t help the GOP either. By inserting Washington bureaucrats into local school systems, the GOP sold out the principles of state control of local affairs. NCLB rubbed so many the wrong way that the Republican-dominated Utah legislature enacted a law that placed achievement of standards set forth in NCLB second to achievement of state standards. Several other states are considering similar laws. So much for the party that once wanted to abolish the Department of Education.
Republicanism, not conservatism, lost on Election Day. Republicans were elected to govern as conservatives, and they became liberals. Power for the sake of power was placed above all else-a bad situation for any party. Republicans may find it prudent to know that a poll last week reported by the Wall Street Journal found that most voters were for less government and lower taxes. If the GOP reinstitutes the ideals and principles that made them a majority, and again become the party of Goldwater and Reagan, the sky is the limit in 2008.