I learned a long time ago not to make political predictions. Too much can change.
But it's hardly a secret that nearly all the signs point to the GOP taking a beating next month. Most seem to expect the Republicans to lose control at least of the U.S. House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate. Not to mention various losses around the country.
Well . . . we'll see. These sort of predictions tend to get overblown; but every once in a while, it is actually worse than anyone predicts.
If the GOP takes the beating widely predicted, let us be clear why this will have happened.
If the GOP goes down in flames, it will not be because of the pathetic Rep. Foley, who lusted after pages.
It won't be because of Bush, per se.
It won't be because of Iraq.
It won't be because the Republicans actually carried through on their ideological commitments.
No, it will because they betrayed their promises and their base.
It will be because they failed to advance the agenda they have claimed, all these years, to care about. As a result, they won't have that agenda to talk about, they will end up talking about scandals and porkbarrel and other things. Every campaign has to be about something; when it's not about larger, more significant issues, then it inevitably ends up being about trivial stupid things. Thus, George Bush the elder ran on flag-burning -- a regrettable, but hardly world-shaking, problem.
Let's be clear: the GOP took power in 1994 in reaction to the agenda the Democrats -- in Congress and the White House -- were advancing: higher taxes, bigger spending, more government (including a health-care plan), more advocacy for abortion, more gun control, more power for union bosses, and probably a few other things I've forgotten. Now, one can defend these things (better you than me): you can say the higher taxes were modest, and needed; that the health-care plan was a misunderstood boon that sadly was denied us; that gun control is good for us, etc. But please, let's not pretend that there wasn't a clear contrast, in 1994, between what the Democrats had proposed and voted on and enacted, and where their GOP challengers stood.
The GOP did not win because of the stupid, vastly overrated "Contract with America." Who remembers what the 10 items were; let along what elements were enacted? That was PR, nothing else. PR is easy; I know, I used to do it for a living. Getting PR is not impressive.
The GOP won because enough of its candidates offered themselves as credible alternatives: on guns, on taxes, on government spending and power; on Right to Work, on prolife.
And how has the GOP done since then? Well, in the first few years opposing Clinton, not bad; they were a real alternative, and happily, the resulting gridlock meant less spending, and actual reduction in government power. The government actually retrenched on an entitlement!
Then, the stupid Republicans decided to get personal, and go after Clinton instead of sticking to issues; and in 1998, they lost a number of seats, where they'd gained in 1996. In 2000, they were all about cheering on their new hero, George W. Bush; and ever since, they've forgotten nearly every principle and commitment they ever had or made.
In fairness, they have done some of what they promised; they have advanced some prolife measures; they did address "tort reform," they did do some good things on guns, and of course, they did make some reductions in taxes--probably the most effective thing they can claim credit for. It is also fair to note that it is not surprising they actually enacted less, because so many fail to realize just how hard it is, and how long it takes, to enact anything really significant in Congress. (And they fail to realize how good that really is.)
Meanwhile, however, they did enact lots of things: a new government entitlement, lots more power for government to spy on us and police us (but don't worry you're little heads; Uncle Sugar wouldn't think of misusing that power, noooo); legislation restricting free speech (the so-called McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform), and of course, wave upon wave of prodigal spending.
The point is, the GOP, somewhere along the line, stopped being the alternative to the problem, and came uncomfortably to resemble the problem it was supposed to oppose. And the last few years, the loyal base has held its nose and voted them back in.
That may yet happen again. But if not, be clear what happened: it was the conservative base that had enough; not the poor, misunderstood "moderates," who if only everyone would listen to sweet reason, would lead us all to the Promised Land -- who if only we'd listened to them, all would be well.
The policy we've gotten from the GOP the past few years is precisely the sort of thing "moderates" like Olympia Snowe and Mike Dewine would vote for -- because it's been their votes the leadership has had to court. This hand-wringing crowd always says the correct thing about spending -- "not too much!" -- but really, when have they ever done anything truly useful? Did they stand in the breach to prevent a huge, new expansion of Medicare? Who are you kidding?
If the GOP goes down in flames in three weeks, there will be a certain justice if Ohio Senator Mike Dewine goes with it: because the GOP that loses will be one that trimmed its agenda to suit him.