Squandered Minority: The Future of the Senate

Perhaps the Log Cabin Republicans, of all people, got it right on the resignation of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. In a statement on his resignation, they said., “He lost his credibility to serve the people of Idaho and his actions damaged the credibility of the Republican Party.”

No truer words were ever spoken, but they are not just true about Sen. Larry Craig. Larry Craig’s problems, Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) problems and others’ are not new. They are a function of arrogance that comes from power and are the best argument for term limits. With the announcement that Sen. John Warner of Virginia will not seek re-election, the Republicans have to get it together before the ’08 elections or they will remain in the minority for the foreseeable future..

Sen. John Ensign gets it. On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Ensign head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) laid out concrete plans he has to maintain or pick up Senate seats in ’08. It is clear that Republicans have not done enough yet to win back the House but they may, just may, have a chance in the Senate. It will take a “throw the bums out” mentality. This is not about term limits — this is about what government comprise of servants of the people should be doing.

There is a big storm raining down on politicians out there in the heartland. First, there is a universal bad taste over the Squandered Majority of the Republican Party. For the better part of 6 years, President Bush had a Senate and a House that was favorable to making the big reforms that were — and still are — needed. Tax cuts should have been made permanent. Earmark reform should have been accomplished. There is an old saying, “shoulda, coulda, woulda and 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee.” It’s no doubt that today’s Congress would take the Starbucks plan and spend 3 bucks on a 50 cent cup of coffee. The out of control behavior of both sides of the aisle is evident in the arrogance of Sen. Larry Craig wanting to take back his guilty plea.

They should have acted like Republicans. John Kasich, former House Budget Committee Chairman and author of “Stand for Something,” said, “Republicans were born to cut taxes and make government smaller.” I would add one thing to that and make it — cut taxes, make government smaller and protect our country from foreign and domestic enemies. Sen. Joe Lieberman said recently that there used to be a time not too long ago when Democrats and Republicans joined together in war efforts against our enemies but not any more. It’s easy to talk about the “War on Drugs” or the “War on Poverty” or even the “War on Terror.” The cynics will say the minute we say it’s the “War” on something; we are done and there’s some validity to that but the terrorists are at war against us, the Leftists are at war against us, too, and Congress has got to get it’s priorities right and it should begin in the Senate.

In the center of this storm is the hope for the election of a Republican Senate in ’08. Nothing would make me happier that to wipe that Cheshire Cat smile off of Senator Chuck Shumer’s (D-Ny) face.

This isn’t a Karl Rove moment. This election is not about numbers in the conventional sense and winning back the Senate, or the House for that matter, isn’t about numbers. Of course, numbers are always a part of elections, but Ronald Reagan didn’t win a landslide victory in 1984 because of numbers, it was because of a consistent ideology that people could count on. In 1994, Newt Gingrich did not orchestrate a victory of numbers, although it was the numbers that lead to the win. The victory came from a clearly stated ideology that people could count on. The Republican Revolution was not about numbers: it was about ideology and implementing that ideology. When you abandon principle for power and money, you lose.

The king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, says often the Republican Revolution was not lost because the people changed their minds, it was because Republicans stopped acting like conservatives and stopped teaching the message of conservatism. The only hope that conservatives have of winning back anything is by acting like conservatives without apologizing for it.

And for those out there that say that word, conservative, in a whisper — they don’t get it. Conservatism is what makes this country great and what gives opportunity. It is what allows people to lift themselves up to the dreams that they dream for themselves, not the dreams the government has for them. The government should be about getting out of the way of individual accomplishment, “making the trains run on time,” and defending the country from enemies.

And for those who whine about the unfairness of how Democrat scandals are handled verses Republican scandals. It is jokingly said that Republicans “eat their young” and that may be true, because when you stand for something then there is a way to measure mistakes — when you stand on moral equivalency and low standards, then anything goes. Ultimately, put me in the camp of high expectations.

Larry Craig and John Warner will be leaving the Senate in decidedly different ways. One leaves in disgrace and one after long and distinguished service. Let this be the beginning of the return to the Founders direction of citizen legislators that know when to leave and understand that public service is about integrity and about having the best interests of the people being temporarily entrusted to them.