Why Republicans Failed to Govern Successfully

In a conversation with an old friend yesterday we got into the subject of why Republicans failed to enact reforms while they held power in Illinois in the 1990s and in D.C. during this decade. Thinking about the conversation later I realized I failed to explain my two basic arguments.

Practically every conservative in the country realizes we need to elect Republicans who are more principled and less inclined to flatten out at the first sign of left wing pressure. But even when Republicans held majorities in legislative branches or the governor’s office or the White House we had plenty of strong, principled men and women in office with the ability to achieve more than they did. The problem was they didn’t know what they needed to do differently and they refused to learn.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll sum up my chief arguments in a moment. Before I do that, a simple point. It’s my view that Republicans know how to win elections. We win plenty of them. Afterwards, however, when a restless public knows reforms haven’t happened as promised, they toss out the GOP.

What most elected Republicans don’t know how to do is successfully enact desperately needed reforms once they’re in power.

The almost cartoon-like example of this was when President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and then the Newt Gingrich-led Congress in the 1990s wanted to slow the rate of growth of the federal government. The political left and their allies in the media cried “CUTS! CUTS!,” and used examples like the school lunch program. Republicans quickly folded.

Why? Because they didn’t know how to 1) build a political back up force, and 2) move public opinion en masse. I’ve written many articles getting into the specific remedies to address both the “1)” and “2).”

Our general themes are summarized as follows:

  • We need an opened-up (SB600!) professionalized Republican Party run by ethical and competent people.
  • We need to build out the structure of the volunteer GOP to counter the large and well funded left wing political force.
  • Legislators have to modernize their approach to their jobs – they’re not legislative technicians, they’re salesman whose job number one is public opinion.
  • Conservatives need to get serious about learning how to bypass the mainstream media.
  • Conservatives need to get serious about fundraising.
  • Conservatives can’t be citizens in name only, but have to help take over the organization that controls the ballot line (the Republican Party).

Yes, that’s a lot of work. Tough. The alternative is to allow the construction of ObamaWorld. It’s going to cost you either way, so take your pick. Work or pay big time.

The title of this piece comes from chapter 2 of Newt Gingrich’s book “Real Change” which I read last year. Newt, as always, makes a lot of good points, but like a lot of accomplished smart politicians, he doesn’t quite see the entire field.

His analysis of what’s wrong policy wise, of course, is dead on. When it comes to entitlement programs, government-run “public” education, and health care reform, Newt sums it up as good as anyone. Frankly, conservative think tanks and serious conservative commentators have provided enough material on almost every conceivable public policy subject for years.

What’s been missing is the simple concept that not enough Americans are getting the word. When a bridge falls in Minnesota or a celebrity dies, the vast majority of people in the country hear the news.

By contrast, fifteen years after Hillarycare failed to pass, we’re having to fight Obamacare because Republicans have squandered a decade and a half of teaching time.

©2009 John Francis Biver