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Republican trifecta offers party new opportunities

Well, you’ve watched the TV, looked at all the analysis in the papers and, if you’re like me, visited the “Drudge Report” at least 265 times. So I’m not going to indulge in too much breezy speculation but instead post an urgent warning addressed to the currently jubilant Republican Party.

It’s now or never. If the Republicans cannot slay some of the leviathan of the federal government through their new control of our government, they will not do so for a very long time. Perhaps never.

If the Republican Party stands for anything that the Democrats do not, it’s that the federal government is too big and controls too much of our lives. Year after year the federal budget grows larger, and year after year more regulations pile onto America’s lives and businesses. Some readers might rejoice at these continuing trends and welcome Big Brother and the Nanny State with open arms of statist love. Some, however, would like a country with less central planning and more market dynamism and an economy with less public spending and more private investment. Many have dreamed for years that if a party committed to liberty and the free market could only capture power in Washington, we could finally cut the budget and finally restrain the maniacal powers of the federal government.

Over and over again, Republicans said they would be this proliberty party, and over and over again they failed to deliver. Admittedly, past Republicans did make some gains. Former President Reagan’s administration brought a dramatic cut in income tax rates that lives with us to this day. The 104th Congress rode into our Capitol with their Contract with America and enacted some improvements in our way of life, including welfare reform. However, not once was Reagan nor the Gingrich Congress able to actually cut the budget or eliminate a federal agency. The government kept getting bigger.

Government never stopped growing, goes the argument, because Republicans never controlled it. Reagan had to deal with a Democratic House, and Gingrich had our friend former President Bill Clinton on Pennsylvania Avenue. If we acquired control of the trifecta of the House, Senate and presidency, so they said, we could then go about restoring American liberty. The younger Bush controlled both houses for a few months in 2001, but after a tax cut – and little else – the opportunity was lost.

Now the opportunity has presented itself again, and there will be no more excusing failure on treacherous senators from Vermont. As of this writing, it looks like the Republicans might control between 51 and 53 seats come January. With this majority, coupled with a strengthened presence in the House, it is time to start taming the beast.

The partial privatization of Social Security should be at the top of the agenda. Another issue is eliminating some federal agencies. It looks like the Department of Education is off the table for a while, but the departments of energy and commerce might stand to fall. Many sub-Cabinet “fluff” agencies could be killed as well. More profound changes might rest on the horizon, such as huge cuts in agricultural spending and the institution of a flat income tax.

These are reforms Republicans in Congress want to enact and which they now have the votes to pass. The question is whether they want to weather the necessary storm of misery. Just as the Contract with America encountered disgust galore, so will the next Congress unless it acts deliberately and courageously. We are in times of high defense spending and uneasiness over foreign policy. But this does not change the fact that non-defense spending is higher than it has ever been, and the regulatory tentacles of the state are longer than at any time in our history. The duty to act is the same with or without a war on.

True reform unexpectedly fell within the nation’s grasp Tuesday night. The Republicans now comfortably control all the workings of our federal government for the first time in 50 years. It must seem tempting to rest on their laurels. If its temptations win the party over, then I see no instance in the future when a similar opportunity might present itself. Democrats can always match Republicans with spending and regulation. It’s in liberating Americans from the auspices of governmental coercion that the Republicans have something to offer. They better start offering that pretty soon, or the grand experiment of a Republican trifecta will melt into the failed experiments of history. Americans might not give them another chance like this again.

Anthony Sanders’ biweekly column appears alternate Thursdays. He welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]
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