Beginnings? Relatively easy, apparently. History, however, shows us that reaching a gratifying finish is a bit trickier.
Some failures to end well are epochal: Think King Solomon’s reign or marauding Muslims at Tours. Think George III versus colonial America, or Saint Helena’s Napoleon.
Other collapses, while not exactly momentous, remain cautionary lessons: Roberto “No Mas” Duran, the 2007 New England Patriots, Liz’s and Richard’s marriages, Howard Dean’s presidential bid. Military, political, social, athletic—of whatever stripe, an ignominious, or merely less-than-stellar finale always carries a tragic note, and seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, in humankind’s affairs.
GOP and Tea Partiers: Take note.
No doubt that 2010’s mid-term electoral skirmish handed conservatives an exhilarating reboot, but let’s entertain no illusions that it’s anything more than that. Radio host Mark Levin (channeling Winston Churchill) styles it only the “beginning of a beginning.” Of course, November’s GOP surge glitters with nearly unprecedented hopefulness: a historically stunning capture of the House of Representatives, sturdy Senatorial gains, impressive nationwide takeovers of state legislatures and governorships. All of these are solid reasons to experience encouragement for supporters of the political and cultural Right.
But recall the mid-1990’s “Republican Revolution”: the GOP’s wresting control of Congress for the first time in four decades; its “Contract with America” captivating the electorate; a new Speaker of the House, Georgia’s wunderkind Newt Gingrich, feted as TIME’s 1995 “Person of the Year” (the same publication, conversely, that tagged Chief Executive Bill Clinton “The Incredible Shrinking President” in June 1993).
Gingrich’s Grand Old Bunch bid fair to keep in their place the Democratic President and his Lefty acolytes—heady stuff, to be sure. And the 104th Congress, indeed, snagged a noteworthy accomplishment or three (welfare reform, balanced budgets, tax cuts.)
Then came 1995’s “shutting-down-the-government” fiasco, a cascade of substantively baseless but reputationally jolting ethics charges targeting the Speaker, and Clinton’s re-election. The year 1998 saw tough times for Newt—the loss of five Republican House slots, intra-party, anti-Gingrich sniping; and in January 1999 the revolution’s tarnished standard-bearer slunk out of office under a cloud of plummeting approval numbers and adultery rumors.
Still on his feet after all the above is the slippery con-man from Arkansas, who proceeded to serve out two full—if scandal-sullied—White House terms (and who today gallingly continues to take credit for many of his erstwhile, Gingrich-led adversaries’ most dazzling achievements.)
Newt and company sure launched with panache and pizzazz, but their revolution ultimately fizzled in as many ways as it sizzled.
More recently, there has been the Scott Brown caveat: Memories are vivid of confetti flying and GOP hearts palpitating when the former firefighter Republican snatched the late “Liberal-lion” Ted Kennedy’s Senate post last January. Perhaps harbinger of a dawning political era? Days after his feat, the words “President Scott Brown” were floated. Preposterously premature, of course—but such are the reactions that heartening first steps can prompt.
Then Massachusetts’s newbie junior senator cast a clutch of votes disappointing his conservative boosters (jobs bill, Dodd-Frank financial regulation). Later this annum, he was practically AWOL from cheering on Sean Beilat, the fellow Republican and former marine challenging another Bay State Liberal leviathan, Congressman Barney Frank. Erstwhile Brown devotees scratched their heads at the Senator’s less-than-inspired support for the feisty upstart.
So: Brown another let-down?
With news that over sixty just-elected Republican Representatives and Senators gathered days ago for a Capitol Hill ”orientation,” I confess to having experienced a shiver of apprehension: Will the enigmatic, statist elixir that purportedly infects D.C.’s water supply get the best of them eventually? Or will perhaps the less-befuddling, centuries-old allurements of power privilege or peer pressure do them in? Or will whatever else it may be triumph, that which twists once-promising statesmen-in-the-making into go-along hacks?
Add to that concern reports that “moderate” GOP’er Mark Kirk, freshly tapped to fill Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, is being ogled as a possible crossover vote for the Democrats’ rigged, anti-Republican DISCLOSE campaign reform act. Further scuttlebutt suggests that the President’s party is similarly eyeballing Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who scores as the fourth-most-liberal Senate Republican—for the same.
I counsel immediate communication to all respective GOP office-holders, particularly the rookies: Commend them for whatever Constitutional and Founding principles they’ve already unfurled, and urge them to hold them fast every moment of their upcoming term. Then extend a reminder—a civil but steely-eyed one—that should they, at any point, ditch those ideals and go the status-quo route, that “R” after their name will afford them exactly zero protection from ballot-box wrath.
November 2nd evening, while most Grand Old Partiers smiled, the sagest reflection came from their House Speaker-presumptive, John Boehner: “We have real work to do … this is not a time for celebration … This is a time to roll up our sleeves … [to] look forward with determination. … [To] take the first steps toward building a better future.”
“Look forward”? ”First steps”? “Building a better future”? These are perfect sentiments for a slam-bang start that will be even better if carried through to a triumphant finish.