Political power: Use it or lose it

Policy matters. Principle matters. Professionalism matters. If, for example, Republicans hold power, spend like Democrats, fail to advance reforms—it’s not surprising that they’d get thrown out of power.  Then in an ironic twist of fate, we’re about to get even more doomed-to-fail programs and policies from Democrats.

Back in February of this year I was already seeing the writing on the wall for what could happen if the Illinois and national GOP didn’t change its ways:

If our national political discussion is going to be about “hope,” skin color and gender, instead of about economic and foreign policy realities, then the Democrats will win.

If Republicans aren’t going to learn how to properly discuss the issues, aggressively drive an agenda, or build a real ideas-based political party, then even Democrats like Barack Obama can win the White House.

I also noted this:

Electing someone of mixed race or a woman isn’t going to usher in a new reality. As it has been said, the history of the world is that capitalism has succeeded everywhere it has been tried, socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried, and yet politicians are continually saying, “Hey, let us try socialism!”

Unless Republicans get their act together and inject some substance into this election campaign, the American public will drop the incremental approach and go all the way in the wrong policy direction.

Three short years ago some of us were pleading with Karl Rove to butt out of Illinois politics and tend to his job helping President George W. Bush implement the agenda he was elected to fulfill. Victory on election day was only supposed to be the first step.

Because Republicans held power and didn’t govern according to their domestic policy principles, the predicted result occurred: failure and meltdown. The most important issue that Republican failed to reform was the Community Reinvestment Act and the entire Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac governmental debacle.

What else didn’t they achieve—or even attempt to seriously advance?

Tax reform. Issues don’t get any easier than simplifying the tax code. If a political party can’t make progress along these lines, it’s probably not going to be able to do much else. There is huge bipartisan support for simplifying the tax code. The only thing preventing it is an army of special interests – which could be overcome – just not by incompetent political leadership.

Health care reform. While the consumer driven health care reform movement is growing and legislative progress is being made, during eight years none of it rose to the level it needed to in order to impact the public mind. What did make impact was a big step in the wrong direction – an expansion of Medicare.

Entitlement reform. President Bush attempted to move on this in 2005 but he was never going to be able to do it alone. The thousands of Republican elected officials from coast to coast were mostly AWOL during this effort, which folded early in the year. We’ve noted previously that federal entitlements dwarf Fannie/Freddie and any bailouts that we’ve seen during 2008.

Public understanding of the war in Iraq. While the insurgency raged in Iraq—especially during 2005 and 2006, our Republican Congressional delegation behaved in such a way that, in my opinion, borders on treason.

I could list more issues, but again, the bottom line is that if politics isn’t going to be about something, it’s going to be about “hope” and “change.” If the Republican brand doesn’t mean reform, professionalism, and competence, it means nothing. And a vapid candidate with a thin resume can win the White House.

All of this has a very practical angle—even in lowly Illinois. At the state level two short years ago, some of us called for the resignation of our Illinois Republican Party leadership following the statewide joke that was the Judy Baar Topinka campaign. Senate President Emil Jones also had captured a veto-proof majority. Two years later, our call being ignored, the Illinois GOP is in even worse shape.

Instead of Illinois being able to be an example to the nation of the GOP on the rebound, it’s an example on every single level of what not to do.

Voters aren’t buying Democrat policies as much as they are rejecting an entire generation of failed Republican leaders. But many of these failed Republican Party and elected leaders aren’t going to do the honorable thing and step aside. They’re going to have to be run out of town.