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First things . . . Richard Falknor on 21 Aug 2010 07:34 pm

Conservatives: Put Not Your Entire Trust in GOP Princes

UPDATE AUGUST 23! “The Republican divide [is] K Street vs. Tea Partiers” declares  Timothy P. Carney in yesterday’s Washington Examiner – – “[Trent] Lott is the captain of the K Street team. He told a reporter last month his thoughts on the Tea Partiers: ‘We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples. As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.'”… “To the K Street wing, the Tea Party types are like the guy who’s playing too hard in a co-ed softball game — he’s sliding headfirst and barking orders at the cutoff man while you’re trying to chum it up with the boys and then maybe go home with the other team’s cute second baseman after the game.”

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“Mr. Rasmussen tells me [John Fund] that understanding the tea party is essential to predicting what the country’s political scene will look like. ‘This will be the third straight election in which people vote against the party in power,’ he says. ‘The GOP will benefit from that this year, but 75% of Republicans say their representatives in Congress are out of touch with the party base. Should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they’ve learned lessons from the Bush years.'”  — John Fund (Underscoring Forum’s.)

“. . . Democrats know the electoral setbacks will only be temporary. They are banking on the assurance that Republicans merely want to win elections and have no intention of rolling back Obamacare, much less of dismantling Leviathan. . . . Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?” – – Andrew McCarthy

Mr. Scott Rasmussen suggests the post-November-election Congressional GOP will face a crucial test: getting in touch with its base promptly.  Mr. McCarthy fears that the Congressional GOP does not have the steel to roll back Obama legislation or to start dismantling an outsized Federal domestic establishment. We don’t disagree with either — we just believe there is little chance of the post-November GOP getting it right in time without considerable heavy lifting by the Tea Partiers and grass roots in working cooperation with GOP leaders. Our message is that the Tea Partiers and grass-roots conservatives — the “country class” if you will — need to get ready for the job, not escape into “fixes” that don’t require much thought, nor should they place an uncritical trust in the GOP leadership.

But first some basics: America is indeed an exceptional nation in terms of freedom and prosperity. 

But maintaining this exceptionalism will demand an equally unusual amount of attention and study from our many talented citizens outside of government circles. It will require citizens associating, for example, to find ways of bringing government’s focus back to core functions, while making those truly core roles work better. 

This kind of informed use of freedom to associate, we call grass-roots activism.  Today’s Tea Partiers are the premier example of this today. 

If we all are able to get another opportunity to strengthen American freedom and prosperity on November 2, 2010, there can be no going back to leaving even trusted elected officials to govern and reform by themselves, while we as citizens return to “normal” unhurried living with “politics” playing a minor role in our days. 

Too many of our friends don’t grasp this. 

Too many elected members of the GOP Establishment, for example, don’t expect to have to be constantly consulting with Tea Partiers and other grass-roots conservatives over big policy directions after November 2.

“It’s fine to do a fix here and there for a major business or a big non-profit that needs a government assist.  But who do these activists think they are?” 

Who would be the author of these likely post-November-election words? Fill in whatever name of a Maryland or Virginia (or national) GOP politician — or familiar national-organization head — you think fits.

We have a few thoughts and recommendations for our conservative friends in Maryland and Virginia, based on what we have seen at Tea Parties and other local gatherings, as well as what we have observed in meetings of conservatives in Washington D.C. over the last decade.

Perhaps our most basic point: overall, there is no mechanical quick fix that will save us from our own political sloth and policy inattention.

“Term limits,” or “banning earmarks,” are two “solutions” we often hear suggested–but there are many others.

These and other “fixes,” however meritorious they may be when properly crafted for application under the right circumstances, cannot work automatically. Too often those who recommend these policies seem to include the idea that, once they are installed, we won’t have to do the hard work of research and continual consultation with our elected officials.  After November 2, they imply, we just go back to a “normal” undemanding political life.

Let’s take term limits for elected officials.  Would this help? A significant power question in Washington (and likely in the capitals of large states) is how to control the “permanent government” or the Administrative Branch. These are the career people, the folks who write the Federal regulations that concerned citizens must track as carefully as legislation has to be monitored. The senior career civil service is a formidable force.  It has a sympathetic ear in that megaphone of governmentalism, the Main Stream Media, whenever any political leadership tries to call the permanent government  to account. 

Whatever way — and there are many — one tries to craft term-limit systems, we do not want to shoot ourselves in the foot by helping turn out of office GOP elected officials who have a proven record making wise decisions and, particularly, of doing careful oversight over the towering Administrative Branch. How many of the various conservative and liberal tabulations of members’ votes include points for oversight?  And oversight is not so much splashy media stories about crime and punishment as it is about the tedious work of preventing mission creep and regulatory overreach.

Without serious oversight, there is no serious government accountability to the voters. It is that simple.

Similarly, making a war-cry of going after earmarks is, we fear, often a substitute for going after the much bigger, giant entitlement programs. The earmark — read appropriations-power — area is more complex than the well-publicized examples of obviously questionable earmarks make it seem.

And, to complicate matters, there are clearly too many journalists and commentators, even in the conservative blogosphere, who avoid getting into the nuts and bolts of government in action. Richard Brookhiser a while ago explained “[p]olitical journalism is a combination of policy wonkery and new journalism; its practitioners write about ideology and personality. . . .”  They are probably not going to be able to help diagnose the sicknesses of statism.  Just look at the superficial media coverage of state politics.

Nonetheless there are valuable analysts who reliably put complex government matters into plain words in our blogosphere. A few of the best (there are obviously more) come to mind:  Andrew McCarthy at National Review on Line, John Berlau and Hans Bader at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mark Krikorian at the Center for Immigration Studies, Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy; AIM’s Cliff Kincaid as the best conservative watchdog; and Bob Moffit, Hans von Spakovsky, and Ron Utt of the Heritage Foundation.

We need to become familiar with those on-line figures who can be our best teachers concerning the policy priorities that are most important to us.

After November 2, moreover, we all will have to gather and package relevant facts and push through the barriers to confer with our politicians about this or that legislative or administrative action or inaction.  No excuses: never in our history has so much information about our government been so readily available.

There is, moreover, too much talk disparaging all GOP Congressional incumbents.  While many of us were asleep at the policy switch over the last decade or more, there was always a core of GOP representatives and senators who served us better than we knew (and perhaps better than we deserved).  Senator Jim Inhofe who started an almost single-handed (and now broad-based and successful) battle against the global-warming statists is just one outstanding example.

We all want to help rebuild (perhaps reform is the better word) the Republican Party into a conservative political organization.  Yet, as Angelo Codevilla writes – –

In the short term at least, the country class has no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class.  . . . . Few Republican voters, never mind the larger country class, have confidence that the party is on their side. Because, in the long run, the country class will not support a party as conflicted as today’s Republicans, those Republican politicians who really want to represent it will either reform the party in an unmistakable manner, or start a new one as Whigs like Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party in the 1850s. “ – – – Angelo Codevilla (Underscoring Forum’s.)

Finally, we cannot urge Mark Levin’s guidance too often – –

“But it took the Statist nearly eighty years to get here, and it will take the Conservative at least as long to change the nation’s direction. Still, there is no time to waste. The Conservative must act now.”  Mark Levin

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