Dr. Tom Coburn has a diagnosis for the Republican Party, and their political future looks to be in critical condition. Why?
Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn’t good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.
Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project and “compassionate conservatism.” If the goal of the K Street Project was to earmark and fund raise our way to a filibuster-proof “governing” majority, the goal of “compassionate conservatism” was to spend our way to a governing majority.
The fruit of these efforts is not the hoped-for Republican governing majority, but the real prospect of a filibuster-proof Democrat majority in 2009. While the K Street Project decimated our brand as the party of reform and limited government, compassionate conservatism convinced the American people to elect the party that was truly skilled at activist government: the Democrats.
He’s right. The GOP got too comfortable with power and lost their way. Instead of standing on principle, it became all about a quest for political power. So far the first instinct of the GOP remains to attack “liberal values” rather than uphold an agenda. While there is much to about the values of the Democratic Party that is worthy of attack, that will do nothing to get the Republicans out of their hole. There has to be a real agenda that the Republican Party stands behind from top to bottom. Just hitting the Democrats will not cut it.
The Senator from Oklahoma has the right diagnosis for the political ills of the Republican Party. There’s no agenda, and without something to lead people towards, you’re not really leading. The GOP is making the mistake of thinking that they can run based solely on a brand that is as tarnished as it ever has been. Instead, the GOP must run a campaign based on a sincere promise to reduce the size but increase the efficiency of government. That requires a sincere effort to fight pork and waste. The Republicans have not embraced a reform agenda, and it is killing them.
The GOP must rediscover its own first principles: what is needed is not a Reagan, but a party of Reagans. The problem is that so far the GOP is not such a party.