One of the benefits of having a two-year-old son is that I now know that, when something traumatic happens, Thomas the Tank Engine usually exclaims, “Cinders and ashes!” I’ll bet there were more than a few folks at the Republican National Committee using similar, albeit less family friendly, utterances the morning after election day. But Thomas’ tagline is a fitting description of the state of the GOP following the election.
If the election of ’06 was a shot fired across the GOP’s bow, the ’08 election was right in their wheelhouse. Neo-conservative (big-government authoritarian) Republican John McCain got stomped by Democrat Barack Obama electorally, 163 to 364. The popular vote was slightly less one-sided, with Obama getting 53% and McCain getting 46%. The Democrats picked up 6 seats in the U.S. Senate and picked up 17 seats in the U.S. House. At the end of it all, the Senate had 57 Democrat seats (only 3 seats short of a filibuster-proof majority) to 40 Republican seats. The House now has 252 Dems and 173 Republicans.
As a one-time stalwart Republican, when I surveyed the wreckage of the GOP, I felt like an immigrant to the U.S. seeing his war-torn former country on CNN, bombed and flattened. I felt sad for my friends who didn’t make it out, but glad that I left when I did.
I didn’t shed too many tears though, because the GOP brought this shellacking on themselves. Many people like myself fought in the trenches to put the GOP in power in the 1990’s. We sent them to DC with a simple mandate: “Cut government.” That included cutting taxes, spending, regulation and intrusiveness. The Republican-controlled federal government did the exact opposite of those things. (I know they cut taxes somewhat. But they didn’t even make those cuts permanent and they increased spending and debt so much that essentially they just delayed paying those taxes rather than eliminating them.)
In essence, once the Republicans were firmly in power, they governed like Democrats. Advocates of smaller, less intrusive federal government suddenly found themselves out in the cold. But, as the last two election cycles showed, the American people will choose real Democrats over wannabe-Democrats every time. The neo-conservative plan to out-Democrat the Democrats resulted in an electoral train wreck.
Supporters of smaller government now have four options:
- We can help the GOP rebuild their party, and try to get it to focus on limited government fundamentals. This is essentially what Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty is about.
- We can join the Democrats and take whatever reforms we can get.
- We can become detached from the political process, hunker down and hope that the big-government Panzers roll past without crushing us.
- We can try to build the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party into a major party able to challenge the Demublicans for control.
I’ve thrown in with the merry band of Libertarians, so it’s probably obvious that I support the last option. Paleo-conservatives, libertarians, and constitutionalists gave the Republican Party a fair chance to advance limited government principles. The GOP betrayed that trust. May it rest in peace.