If Republicans can’t deliver, they will pass from power

Chris Schafer

Last week’s elections brought sweeping change throughout the local and federal governments of this nation. In an election where Republicans feared losing their control of the U.S. House, the GOP retained control of the House and won several upset victories in route to taking the Senate as well. Thus, midway through his term as president, George W. Bush now has the voting support of Congress; the show is his to run. And the world sees this – it was the sweeping Republican victories in the House and the Senate that spurred the United Nations to suddenly decide to get tough on Iraq. Once Bush’s opposition at home was defeated, political opposition abroad quickly faltered.

The Republicans appear to have the makings of a political dynasty. Younger, more innovative neoconservatives now hold congressional seats, each carefully chosen previously for their own respective race. These new office holders are seen to be more bi-partisan than their Democrat counterparts. Each of them will enter the next election with the title of “incumbent” next to his or her name, which usually makes them harder to remove. This new young breed of Republican politicians is then coupled with a president whose political popularity was even more powerful than the Republicans had hoped and the Democrats had feared. Yes, things appear to be going quite well for the Republican Party at the moment.

But glad tidings can fade as easily as they appear. The nation’s citizens didn’t vote Republican out of generosity, they did so because they expect results from the Grand Old Party, which can ill afford to parade its victories and rest on the idea that it is unbeatable. It is only temporary. The party has been in a situation similar to this before, in 1994, when the Republicans swept through the House and the Senate, forming the Contract with America. Even without White House support, the party still derived significant political muscle from the likes of Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich.

Unfortunately, the Republicans of 1994 focused too much of their attention on monitoring the mischievous acts of former President Bill Clinton. It was tempting, I know. And during that wasted time, they forgot their promise to Americans. They didn’t sufficiently cut taxes or improve the economy and voters were left to wonder what they had voted for. The entire period was seen by most Americans as nothing more than petty squabbling between the parties. And the voters responded during the following elections, in which Republican party defeats all but sealed the political careers of Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole – whose presidential defeat was nothing more than a formality.

Now the Republican Party finds itself in control once again. True, it owns the White House this time, which means its largest distraction from that previous defeat is gone. But the partisan politics involved in pursuing Clinton ultimately brought about the party’s downfall. And the same consequence lingers in this post-election era as well.

Voters did not give the GOP a blank check. Several races across this nation were very close, with Republicans narrowly defeating their Democratic opponents. Should the Republicans falter on their campaign promises, that narrow margin could very easily turn in the opposite direction. The Republican Party must work to please the moderates that voted for them on Nov. 5. Because this group represents the majority of the voting citizens in this country, the direction they sway dictates who wins elections. These people vote issues and candidates – not parties. These are the people the parties are supposed to serve.

The GOP has its work cut out for it in order to bolster the beaten economy while still holding to its promise to begin tax cuts. In addition the party must fight terrorism as well as protect civil rights, promote industry while protecting the environment, and reward self-sufficiency while caring for the needy. Any of these issues, if not addressed, could easily sway the moderates back the opposite way and dethrone the president’s House and Senate just as he is up for re-election himself, leading to an even bigger subsequent loss.

The Republicans dominated the Nov. 5 elections for several reasons, most notably their promises of tax cuts, their proactive stance towards terrorism and the president’s unfaltering popularity. In addition, voters across the nation also cited the Republicans willingness to work through bipartisan politics to bridge gaps and make changes in this country. Democratic candidates across the nation were seen as old and partisan while Republicans were seen as a younger, more-evolved, bi-partisan politician. If that face, which the party successfully conveyed during the election, should falter, the “GOP tidal wave” will quickly recede.

Chris Schafer’s biweekly column appears alternate Wednesdays. He welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]