Another year has passed and 2008 looms on the doorstep. It offers — in equal parts — both electoral peril and opportunity for conservatives. Will 2008 bring success or will it be a repeat of 2006 — another year of disappointment in Washington and defeat at the ballot box? It all depends on whether conservatives can make and stick to some New Year’s resolutions that will help them rebound from 2006 and avoid the errors of the past.
For Congressional Republicans two simple resolutions are essential.
First, it’s time to start playing offense, not just a good game of defense. If the Democrats could not pass a budget without 11,000 earmarks the Republicans should offer their own and dare Democrats to vote against it. Republican earmarkers should remember that success isn’t bought with pet projects. The more you act like Democrats, folks, the fewer votes Republicans will get. Likewise on the Bush tax cuts, on funding and building of a border fence and on FISA Republicans need to force up or down votes. Rather than split the difference and offer compromise for the sake of "comity" they need to make the Democrats the poster children for high taxes, open borders, and big spending. Having Hillary and Obama on record voting for the Charlie Rangel tax bill or against construction of a border fence is worth millions in TV ads in November.
Second, Senate Republicans should vow to confirm a reasonable number of appellate court judges, at least comparable to the number confirmed in President Clinton’s last year. If Senate Democrats resist, Republicans should vow to grind the Senate’s business to a halt and promise similar treatment should a Democrat enter the White House in 2009. If Democrats forgot how Senator Daschle led his Senate colleagues over the cliff with obstructionism — and helped usher in some surprising Democratic losses — Senator Reid and his caucus can be re-taught the same lesson..
Republican presidential contenders should resolve to stick to the issues that matter most — taxes and spending, a strong military and border security without amnesty. Going down the rabbit hole of their opponents’ past makes the voters disgruntled with all of them — and provide plenty of "oppo" research for the eventual Democratic nominee. Instead, each would be well advised to explain what is wrong with the Hillary/Obama/Edwards vision for the country and how they would go about beating the Democrats in November. They will gain bonus points for explaining how each would keep Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in check and get their agenda through a hostile Congress.
Republican primary and caucus voters should resolve to ignore the polls and political pundits. And the Democrat-managed primary season debates. The pundits will say the GOP field is weak, only the winners in Iowa or New Hampshire can gain the nomination and contenders without giant coffers of cash cannot win. Don’t believe a word of it. The race is only over when a candidate gains the majority of delegates. If your favorite candidate does not do well early on but exhibits the judgment, skills and record to beat the Democrats and govern well, do not despair. Trust your gut, not the MSM prognosticators and vote for him anyway.
For the eventual GOP presidential nominee his resolution should be simple: resist the call to “move to the center” and “moderate his views.” Grasping for approval from the MSM is a losing proposition. He will win no praise from the front page of the Washington Post or from CNN even if he should follow their advice. Republicans win elections when they hold to simple and clear principles: low taxes, free trade, a strong military, and appointment of judges who stick to judging.
To that list virtually all of the potential GOP nominees will enjoy the advantage on key issues including securing the border, limiting government benefits to those here illegally and encouraging English as the unifying language of the U.S. Sticking to those positions and forcing the Democrats to say what they really believe will be key to a GOP victory in November. In short: please voters attracted to the conservative message and not the editorial board of the New York Times.
At the top of President Bush’s resolution list should be to allow General Petraeus, not 2008 election politics, determine troop levels in Iraq. Disparaged by Democrats but now recognized by even MSM outlets, the Surge has been a military success. Leaving his successor with fewer troops but less stability would aid neither President Bush’s legacy nor the new president. If President Bush listens to General Petraeus and not the Democratic presidential nominee for advice we will all be the better for it. As Margaret Thatcher so ably told President Bush’s father “This is no time to go wobbly.”
Finally, conservative voters should resolve not to lose nerve. Conservatives should recall that 2006 taught us that fiscal and ethical laxity — not conservative principles — were responsible for the wipeout at the ballot box. The last seven years have brought some defeats and disappointment but also potent reminders that conservatism works. Tax cuts do encourage growth. Defeat in Iraq is not a preordained. Amnesty is not a winning policy. Americans do not support judges who meddle in social policy.
If conservatives vow to keep these simple truths in mind, ignore the drumbeat of despair sounded by the MSM, and flock to the ballot box as never before, then 2008 may indeed be a happy and politically healthy New Year for conservatives. And for the country.