Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Dead skunk, but not in the middle of the road

Dick Armey urges Republicans to address this question:

How do we once again convince the public that we are in fact the party many Democrats successfully pretended to be in this election?

How, in other words, do Republicans articulate "a positive, national vision that is defined by economic opportunity, limited government and individual responsibility"?

I think that there’s something to be learned from 1994, but it will be hard to lead a similar "revolution" against a party that has only controlled Congress for a couple of years. Democrats can surely lose Congress in 2008, but it will take Republicans longer, I fear, to win it back.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Dear Ashland University and southern Ohio residents: Welcome back to America. I hope you enjoyed your time in Jessuland. Its good to have you back.

Well, for starters, behave that way when we elect you.

Mr. Armey’s observation seems correct in that a number of successful Democratic candidates appropriated conservative positions. Dr. Knippenberg, do you suppose that this appropriation could lead to electoral problems sooner rather than later for those particular Democrats? I mean, a first-time Democratic congressman who ran as a pro-gun, pro-life candidate with fiscally conservative leanings will have a hard time convincing his constituents in 2008 that he made progress on those issues, especially given Democratic control of both houses. Could 2006’s improbable winners become 2008’s vulnerable freshmen incumbents?

I believe the only way for Democrats to keep the house is, at the end of two years, for there to have been good governance. If they make sensible laws, if they manage to keep spending down, if the economy improves (I know, it’s the best it’s ever been... tell that to the middle class and the poor) and if they don’t waste their time on publicity stunts (the Democratic equivilent of Terri Schivo, whatever that would be... some whale-saving endeavor?) then they’ll get the votes.

"How, in other words, do Republicans articulate "a positive, national vision that is defined by economic opportunity, limited government and individual responsibility"?"

Have you considered changing presidents?

And dropping the patriot act, and "faith-based initiatives"

And agreeing to stop blaming Bill Clinton for everything?


This is the question. I thought the story of the election was not the Dem takeover, but, generally, the moderate Dems that were elected.

How happy will they be when the leadership (Pelosi, et al) pressures them to be quiet and vote with them? They may be forced to run against (or away from) their own leadership in 2008.

How do we once again convince the public that we are in fact the party many Democrats successfully pretended to be in this election?

What happens if it wasn’t all pretense? What happens if in fact the Democrats have unlocked the code, and are in the process of fielding an increasing array of candidates who are moderately conservative on some issues? Yes, that creates some problems for Pelosi in terms of holding together a wider coalition, but what happens if for some period of time the sweet taste of power allows Democrats to field more "moderate" candidates?

Answer: it’ll be a long time before the Republicans gain control again. My guess is a decade or more.

If the Democrats vote moderately to pander to the electorate, or indeed are moderate; either way you have to consider this is a good thing for you. No matter what they’re called, if they agree with your positions you should support them. Wait and see.

Armey’s on the right track, but with at least one large caveat: It is rarely possible to repeat a historic victory, e.g., 1994 and the "Contract With America." Circumstances are simply too different. We can have good results in ’08, but not if we’re stuck on repeating the Gingrich electoral revolution. For one thing, the Gingrich project was many years in the making. For another, we have no Gingrich in Congress or running our electoral efforts. We need to focus intensely on the current climate, current problems, and current opportunities. A lot has changed in the last 10-15 years. A lot.

The advice not to "check on a dead skunk" is also wrong. There is certainly a place for macho stoicism in politics, but resolutely moving on without thoroughly understanding the dynamics of the ’06 disaster is not smart. We need to see it very clearly and think through it. We need to replay that tape several times, relive our big mistakes and the Dems’ big plays several times and remember them as painful lessons. Learning is often painful. And resolution without smarts doesn’t produce much -- as President Bush’s own example makes all too clear.

David Frisk, I do not think Armey is saying we can repeat ’94 in the way you suggest. The point is to take positive stands on political issues and then hold to them, as was done (for the most part) in 94. I can’t see that it is any big deal for him to say that, nor that it is false. Principled politics makes sense to me. If Republicans can not articulate, nor very apparently believe, much less act on their own rhetoric, what’s the use in supporting them? Which, of course, is why Christopher on the blog, somewhere, boasts of not having voted in the election at all. I know lots of people who say the same thing, which to me was to make enemy of the better to embrace some absolute best. Their lovely ideals have thrown us all in the soup, but really.... we were in a pretty nasty stew, already, with not much solid to stand on in a political discussion. (Sorry for the messy metaphors) I mean, honestly, we have been privately complaining about the skunk for years before it died in road the other day. To argue the Republican principles of the Bush administration with a liberal was to be slammed with the unprincipled nature of the beast one was trying to defend. Except on the war and then resolution without smarts was it, time and again. The campaigns were not the problem, it was the stink of unprincipled Republicans over the last several years that made everyone, even parts of the base, for goodness sake, turn away.

I agree that Republicans, especially conservatives, (who are actually the only Republicans I ever listen to,) endlessly discuss principles and ideas, as has been discussed previously on the blog. We just love them. So when the Republican political establishment compromises principle, muddies and makes a mess of our ideals and our vision, we are dismayed and in disarray.

People did not vote for Democrats because they did anything wonderfully right in this election. They voted for them because Republicans looked so absolutely wrong for the last couple of years.

David, I respect you, but I think you need to read Krauthammer’s editorial this morning. It’s true that this could be a disaster, but if played properly, it could be much less serious. The Dems were forced to bring some good ol’ boys into their ranks, and the GOP shed a goodly number of RINOS. Things could be far worse.

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