Thursday, October 20, 2005

Through the Crossroads

The Democrats and left-wingers are positively ecstatic over the apparent upheaval in the conservative base. Suddenly a party devoid of ideas, devout obstructionism, and persistent pessimism have grasped a perceived spark of optimism from the apparent split of the Republican base.

In an earlier column I wrote about seeing the Republican Party at a crossroads. I talked about how President Bush must move back to the right or risk losing his base and possibly fragmenting the GOP. That was before the Harriet Miers nomination! Even though no one from his administration will most likely make a serious run in 2008 the loss of some in the conservative base is not without consequences for Bush. Already weakened by low poll numbers and the controversy surrounding Karl Rove and others, with a real or perceived split in his base it will be increasingly difficult for Bush to have the political capital to push his second term agenda. This certainly has the Democrats licking their proverbial chops over the upcoming 2006 elections thinking that there is a chance to retake control of Congress because disillusioned conservatives will stay home and not go to the polls.

In that column the crossroads at which I saw the GOP had nothing to do with Supreme Court nominees. The problem I saw with Bush in relation to the conservative base was his and the Republican controlled Congress’ lack of fiscal conservatism and the proposals of expanding the federal government in an overreaction to the Katrina aftermath. Then came the Miers nomination which provided the spark that ignited the powder keg under the conservative camp and with the resulting explosion it is no wonder that the Democrats are so unusually optimistic. But alas, this optimism will turn out to be much ado about nothing.

The sounding of taps over the Republican Party’s grave is just a little premature. Conservatives are not leaving or even threatening to leave the GOP. On the contrary, they have rallied to consolidate the party and bring it back to a more conservative agenda. The conservative base which has been lying mostly dormant for the past five years allowing President Bush wide latitude in fighting the war on terror has sent shock waves through the Bush Administration as well as the Republican leadership in Congress.

I also wrote that I believed that the leadership for the movement of the party back to conservatism would have to come from Bush. I was wrong about that. The direction is coming from the core itself. The Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscal conservatives, and Operation Offset led by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) have rallied to the cause of steering the Republican Party through the crossroads and putting it back in touch with conservatives, at least fiscally. The good news is that the Republican leadership is listening and reacting. Fortunately they seem to understand that it was the very conservative values that they abandoned that not only got them elected but established the GOP as the majority party.

The willingness of the Republican leadership to look toward spending cuts as a way to pay for Katrina has gone a long way in making conservatives happy. Many are still outraged over the Miers nomination and it is very unlikely that Bush will pull the plug before the confirmation hearings. Remember not many conservatives were happy about the Roberts nomination until they watched the confirmation hearings and after learning more about his philosophy they eventually embraced him. Even if there is no repeat of this for Miers the shock of not getting the pick they wanted will eventually fade and if Bush embraces the conservative realignment on other issues it will go along way in strengthening his political capital.

The biggest fear for Republican members of Congress that are up for re-election in ‘06 should be a challenge in the primaries from a Republican candidate running on a platform with whom the conservatives can identify. The larger majority of conservatives are not going to sit out an election and risk Democrats regaining power. Moderates are certainly not going to be alienated by a shift back to conservatism because they helped elect these representatives based on conservative principles. Besides, the Democrats still have no platform for governing America, unless you count socialism.
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