These are dark days for Republicans in Washington, but that doesn’t mean conservatives should hang their heads. In fact, the current climate is helping advance conservative policy proposals, and it could ultimately help the Right to gain a firmer grip on the GOP.
This has happened before. In 1974, a corrupt, liberal Republican establishment was flattened by scandal, empowering a new generation of upstarts who often lacked wealth and pedigree but came armed with ideas — the conservatives. They made the GOP a majority party again, but they owe their success to Mark Feldt. Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 would never have been possible without Watergate.
Now the Republican Party, slightly more conservative than in those days, is about to reach what might be its lowest point since then. This time the scandal is less dramatic — President Bush will probably not be impeached or forced to resign. Still, things are definitely getting ugly, and fast.
By the time you read this, two top presidential aides may already be indicted and forced to resign in connection with the Plame Affair. Both of the party’s congressional leaders are currently under a cloud of scandal, and Tom DeLay’s indictment is nothing compared to what he may face when his friend lobbyist Jack Abramoff goes on trial. Bush, with his approval ratings at new lows, will likely be forced to turn tail and withdraw his second nomination to the Supreme Court. Public outrage over Katrina has weakened the GOP still further.
And oh, yeah, almost forgot about that Iraq thing.
Sell Out in Reverse
How has the party establishment reacted to its current dire situation? Already they are beginning to sell out — to conservatives.
The general trend is clear — Republican leaders are finding themselves with few friends lately, and they realize that they need to shore up conservative morale or risk their own agenda. Among other things, that means that once Bush has withdrawn the Miers nomination – as he inevitably will — he won’t make the same mistake again because he can’t afford to. It also means that conservative troublemakers will be emboldened to make new demands and push the envelope. In the House, their efforts may soon bring about $50 billion or more in real spending cuts.
In the Senate no one makes trouble like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who took to the Senate floor last Thursday and began proposing amendments that highlighted the most embarrassing pork-barrel projects in the Transportation and Housing appropriations bill.
One target was a $500,000 sculpture garden to be built in Washington State. When his attempt to strip it out drew threats of retaliation from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Coburn put a finger in her eye. “Seattle, Washington is ranked number two in the nation for food insecurity,” he said on the Senate floor. “What is more important, feeding people and housing people, or building a sculpture park?”
Coburn also thumbed his nose at the powerful Alaska delegation by proposing that the extravagant funding for two expensive and unnecessary bridges — including the one that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is having named after himself — be diverted to pay for the rebuilding of Twin Spans bridge in New Orleans.
Coburn lost badly on the floor with those amendments — neither of them even got 20 votes, mostly because many senators fear retribution and a loss of their own earmarked spending items. But he did embarrass some powerful legislators, and he also won some minor provisions, the most important of which will make it harder for congressmen to hide their earmarks in spending bills in the future.
The worse things become, the better they get. Enjoy the dark days while they last.
David Freddoso, a native of Indiana, is a political reporter for Evans and Novak Inside Report.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire