Have Republicans learned anything from their defeat?

November 16, 2006|By Thomas Sowell

In just two short years, Republicans have gone from being champs to being chumps. In 2004, the GOP had control of all three branches of the federal government and most state governorships. Today, they are left wondering what hit them.

Now that Democrats are in control on Capitol Hill, President Bush has expressed hopes of getting a bipartisan immigration bill. The only bipartisan bill that can get past a Democratic Congress is an amnesty bill, which could be a down payment on another Republican defeat in 2008.

If the people in the White House do not understand how outraged their supporters were at this year's attempt to pass an amnesty bill for illegals - virtually guaranteeing that even more millions will come - it is hard to know what message they got from the Republicans' recent debacle at the polls.

Immigration was not the only issue, but it was part of the more general issue of betrayal, which includes the Republicans' runaway spending, among other things.

If the GOP leaders have learned nothing from their recent defeat, perhaps some Republican supporters will. Some of the most baffling e-mails received from conservative Republicans before the election were from those who said they were so disillusioned or disgusted with the Bush administration that they were going to vote for Democrats in order to send a message.

This is the kind of emotional self-indulgence common among liberals, but apparently some conservatives have now also come to see elections as occasions to vent their feelings rather than to choose among existing options for the future of the country.

Sending a message may have its benefits but - as with all benefits - the question must be asked: At what cost?

On the left, it is considered OK to say things such as "open space" or "alternative fuels" without any thought of the cost. What is new is finding the same spirit flourishing among some conservatives as well.

As events unfold, perhaps those conservatives will reconsider whether it was worth it to "send a message" to President Bush at the cost of making Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Leahy's control of that committee virtually guarantees that the only federal judges who can get confirmed are those who are likely to spend decades on the bench creating new "rights" for criminals, illegal aliens and terrorists.

Was that price even considered by conservatives who indulged their anger instead of weighing alternatives?

It is easy to say "the parties are no different" or "things couldn't get any worse." People have said that before - and have been proved wrong before.

Before the election of 1860, abolitionists said it would make no difference whether Abraham Lincoln or a Democrat were elected. But millions of people were freed because that prediction was wrong.

In Germany, the Weimar Republic was nobody's idea of an ideal government, and in the desperate days of the Great Depression, no doubt many German voters thought that nothing could be worse. But they discovered during the dozen years of Nazi rule just how much worse things could be.

Congressional Republicans don't have enough votes to stop any legislation or confirm any judges, especially since the Democrats stick together, unlike Republicans. Moreover, with a GOP president saying that he wants a bipartisan immigration bill and a bipartisan minimum-wage bill, there is not even the hope of a veto.

But the fact that you cannot stop something does not mean that you have to become an accomplice. There is no reason that a majority of Republican senators should ever again vote to confirm another extreme activist judge such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nor is there any reason that congressional Republicans should again outrage their supporters by voting for another illegal-immigration amnesty bill - not unless they want to be chumps again in 2008.

Even aside from moral issues, betrayal has had a bad political record under both the elder President Bush ("no new taxes") and the younger President Bush ("comprehensive immigration reform"). Congressional Republicans will have to face the voters again in 2008, even if President Bush does not.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is info@creators.com.

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