There is little in the bill that is likely to make the Right giddy. Yet, there seems to be a chorus of disgust coming from Republicans of all ranks. The amount of pork and spending is indeed revolting. Barely less revolting is the transparent disgust of Republicans in the House and Senate.
Until they demonstrate otherwise, Republican clamoring about wasteful spending should be taken as political posturing, nothing more and nothing less.
Someone might be inclined to ask, Why? The Republicans were, with the exception of three senators, completely unified in opposition to the president’s stimulus bill. I would say that that someone is right, the Republicans were extremely unified in their opposition. But why all of a sudden? The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for six years and didn’t bat an eye at the monumental debt they created.
Even when they were demoted to minority party status after 2006, the Republicans didn’t get much better. When the vote came in the fall for the Wall Street bailout, House Minority Leader John Boehner led the GOP opposition against the bill, which led them to defeat the initial bill, and conservatives everywhere exuberantly cheered.
Hooray! Stopping this bailout and saving the taxpayers’ money is just what we need to retain the White House!
Then the bill got revamped, crammed with pork, and the Republicans, including their presidential candidate, turned around and voted in favor of the bigger bill. And then more Republicans were sent home after the election.
So how are things different now? There’s a Democratic president now, but his philosophy on spending is not much different from his predecessor’s. Both the defense and domestic budgets are bloated. There’s lots of pork and political pet projects. So what’s the difference?
It turns out Republicans are probably only concerned with fiscal sanity when it benefits them politically. They realize that billions in the bill are not “stimulus-related” and the actual stimulus the bill might provide will be marginal and won’t take effect for perhaps a couple of years. They had nothing to gain in voting for it. The stimulus was the initiative of the Democrats, it was loaded with pork and waste, and will probably instigate little growth that is outside the realm of the federal government. We already know that Republicans are just fine with stimulus bills if they are proposed by a Republican president. This is sheer political posturing and the Republicans’ only motivation is to take cover.
This is precisely why the Republicans are still a dormant party. Nobody should take this prodigal fiscal sanity seriously. The Republicans are screaming about how President Obama is spending the country into oblivion and that our children will have to shoulder the weight of this ghastly debt.
That is a very good point. Yet, where was this revulsion when George W. Bush was doing the exact same sort of spending?
And if Barack Obama is the one who sends us spiraling into terminal debt or an unscrupulous burden on our descendants, then it is because George W. Bush set the table for him. Why is President Obama’s spending evil and irresponsible when his predecessor’s was barely more responsible?
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It is precisely because they supported George W. Bush’s every wish and whim and passed everything he wanted that this newfound opposition has to be politically motivated and nothing else.
Case in point: Missouri Republican Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond, inserted legislation into the bill committing money to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a bill that he later voted “no” on.
That seems kind of odd. While I cannot gaze into the man’s heart, to the naked eye, it looks like having it both ways plus one: making sure money gets allocated, voting no on the entire bill, and then getting credit for appearing to care about the motorcycle industry. He doesn’t care about how much is actually in the bill, just how he can best benefit from his “no” vote. Those are not political principles at work, but sheer deception.
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If the slow-moving stimulus really takes some sort of effect by 2010, the midterm elections will be just as disastrous for the Republicans as the last two have been.
If the Republicans wish to get out of their purgatory of minority status, they, like the president’s stimulus, will need some time. They will need it to prove themselves worthy of governing again, after such a dismal record during the Bush years.
But if the stimulus is an historic failure, then that will provide an opening for Republican congressional gains in 2010 and in 2012, our next presidential election year. It will take a new Republican president to determine whether Republicans have really learned their lesson or not. It’s easy for Republicans to oppose a liberal Democratic president with big-spending aspirations when the former’s constituents are seething. It’s quite a different story to oppose your own party’s president when he tries the same thing.
And for Republicans to come back, they do not need to move to the left or try to appease Democrats by dumping the social conservatives. To win elections again, they need to not only move past George W. Bush, but break his mold. No more “compassionate conservatism,” no more amnesty for illegal immigrants, no more LBJ-style domestic spending on prescription drugs, no more undeclared wars and nation-building, and no more they-might-as-well-be-the-51st-state alliance with Israel.
A Republican comeback lays in the somewhat distant future (4-8 years, the distant future in political years).
George W. Bush may be gone and not coming back, but the legacy he left to his party is still here and not going away. It will take a willingness to stand up to a president from their party who is overreaching in his executive power for us to see if the Republicans have really come home.
Of course unless the next Republican president has a record of responsible spending, prudent governance, and fidelity to the laws of the republic (be it Ron Paul, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, or someone else of their statesmanship) then it will be much easier for Republicans to lay claim for a new dynasty.
Again, that is for the future.