Revamping the Revolution

Last Tuesday, the Republican Revolution that brought the G.O.P. to power in 1994 officially died. In fact, the death came slowly over the last four years as Republicans failed to curb spending and fulfill its promise to the American people to reduce the size and scope of government. If the Republican Party wants to succeed in 2008, it needs to do three things: recapture the spirit of ’94, restore their ideals, and rethink Iraq. When Dick Armey drafted the “Contract With America” in 1994, conservatives were given added energy and incentive to go to the polls and vote Republican. Americans were promised economic freedoms that could would never conceivably come out of a Democratic Congress. When the Republicans took control, they fulfilled many of their promises. They passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Taking Back Our Streets Act, the American Dream Restoration Act, and numerous others that followed the conservative agenda. But since Bush was elected in 2000, many conservatives saw the promise slowly die when he signed the Medicare bill of 2003 and increased non-defense discretionary spending by nearly 28% (compare that with Clinton’s non-defense discretionary spending, which actually decreased by 0.7% after his first three years in office.) If the RNC can bring back the spirit of ’94 and regain the trust of the right-wing base, 2008 could be the new 1994. Many people have been sucked into thinking that the Republicans lost last week for being too conservative, and not appealing enough to the moderates. This reasoning does have some weight behind it. With all of the aversion towards the war in Iraq, it appeared to be the Republican strategy to pick up the votes of moderates by constantly reminding voters about the success of the economy. In September, the RNC announced that it will hold the 2008 Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a state that has voted Democratic in the past TWELVE Presidential elections. Such a political move indicates a Republican strategy to target the middle and middle-left. While these efforts may help to attract the moderate vote, they are vastly diminishing the right-wing base by accentuating the recent absence of ideology in the Republican Party. It is in fact this absence that contributed greatly to the Republicans’ defeat last week. Rush Limbaugh even said the day after the election that he “feels liberated” because he “no longer is going to have to carry the water for people who [he] doesn’t think deserve having their water carried.” Republicans like Lincoln Chafee (PA ’71), Jeb Bradley and Rob Simmons, who played up their “independent-mindedness” and “nonpartisanship” in their campaigns for re-election, were all defeated. The moderate vote will no doubt be a crucial part of the 2008 election, which is why moderates like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani will probably be on the ticket for the Republicans. Even still, the Republican leaders must not forget that the traditional ideology is compassionately believed by every God-fearing conservative, which is why the ideology must play a larger part in the Republican Party that runs in 2008. According to exit polls from last week, 55% of voters disapprove of the Iraq war. If these numbers tell us anything, it is that Republicans can no longer afford to “stay the course” in Iraq, though the American people are not calling for immediate pullout. All the American people want is a plan. Americans have never been too keen on fighting wars for abstract notions like “democracy,” which is why it took so much to sell this war. If the hawkish leaders of the Republican Party continue to advise a “stay the course” policy in Iraq against the will of the American people, the Republicans will undoubtedly lose again in 2008. To prepare for 2008, while Bush attempts to pull his approval rating out the gutter, the rest of the Republicans need to first satisfy Americans with the war in Iraq. Once that is off the table, they will need to then go back to basics, to their core principles, and create a unified message as they did ’94 and regain the trust of America.