A Majority, If You Can Keep It

The Republican Party, which in 2006 was unceremoniously deprived of its last majority in the House of Representatives, is virtually certain to regain that advantage with next Tuesday’s mid-term election.  The still-unanswered question is whether the GOP will use that majority to trim federal spending and cut federal power, or behave as it did when it enjoyed a majority during the first six years of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, and dramatically increase both federal spending and power.

The answer may lie in the response Benjamin Franklin gave to a fellow Philadelphian citizen in 1787. The famous octogenarian was asked what form of governing structure the Constitutional Convention then meeting behind closed doors had decided upon – “a Republic or a Monarchy?”– Franklin famously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Now, 223 years later, similar questions about the fundamental direction in which America is headed, are being asked; largely in the context of whether a Republican majority in one or both houses of Congress, will make a significant difference.

Clearly, the Democrats are on the ropes. Even many who have not in the past needed to fight to keep their seats, are facing the very real prospect of defeat. Long-serving Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank has been forced to loan his campaign $200,000 to fend off a challenge from an impressive young GOP challenger.

In my home state of Georgia, Republicans are poised to pick off Rep. Jim Marshall, who has been a frequent target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, notwithstanding his vote against “Obama Care.” A recent poll by The Hill shows him trailing Austin Scott, a state legislator from South Georgia, by 13 points.

There are similar scenarios all across the country. Many observers and reporters no doubt laughed at Republican suggestions earlier this year that 100 seats were in play. But with just days to go, we see this year is truly shaping up to be that bad for President Barack Obama and House Democrats.

The comparisons to past elections have been made by many during the current cycle. The most frequent comparison is to 1994, when 54 new Republicans rode into the House on a wave fueled by the “Contract with America.” The “Contract” was short and simple, but it resonated with voters.

What are Republicans offering in 2010 to prove they really are different? So far they have offered a tepid “Pledge to America” that makes no mention of earmark reform, actually endorses parts of Obama Care, and speaks in platitudes when it comes to reform of Medicare and Social Security; programs that make up over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. They still are using gay marriage and “don’t ask, don’t tell” as wedge issues. There also has been no serious discussion from prominent Republicans about ending our nation’s imperialistic tendencies that surged during the Bush administration.

Already, Republican leaders are playing down legislative and budget battles with the Obama Administration. When Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) floated the prospect of a government shutdown, Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner (R-OH) was quick publically to toss cold water on the suggestion.

November 2nd is shaping up to be a big day for Republicans. Do they truly believe in the limited government and free market rhetoric espoused on the campaign trail? Ben Franklin’s prescient advice, paraphrased for the majority-in-waiting GOP, still stands – “Yes, you will very likely have a majority, but will you keep it or squander it?” The track record isn’t good.

55 comments Add your comment


October 31st, 2010
9:25 am

This is already a bad start. Republicans have said “Bush tax cuts renewal does not have to be balanced by spending cuts.” The very fact they want Bush tax cuts renewed is a sign that deficit-cutting is not a goal. Add to that – no cuts to Medicare, Social Security, Defense and you already know the math. It points to continued spending. 67& of the spending is in MSD. Repubicans won’t have the courage to touch MSD but renew tax cuts. Oh boy! In 8 months, this will be a horror tea party. The only real fiscal discipline will involve deep cuts, no tax cuts, and significant tax increases, and cuts to medicare. Republicans won’t increase taxes, they won’t even cut spending (Medicare, Social Security), Dems will have additional spending plans. Disaster! Barr!

Doug Hill

October 31st, 2010
9:46 am

It is the political parties, and the professional politicians they spawn, that are the root of the political problem. It is the essential framework that guarantees a disappointing result.

Political parties are the most onerous of special interest groups. Power, prestige and wealth are the promise of fidelity to the political machine.

The parties groom professional politicians – men and women whose political ambition drives them to go along to get along as they ascend the ladder of political power. Their allegiance lies with the party bosses and power brokers who can make or break their careers, and with the party, which sustains them. They are nurtured by the party in a system of rewards and punishments designed to extract loyalty to the party and its leaders.

Professional politicians do not engage in reasoned dialectic to arrive at a consensus of what is best for the people. They do not vote their minds or consciences. The party whips do their job, and votes are cast along party lines. Any politician who does not toe the party line will suffer the sanctions of the party bosses. The struggle is not one of enlightenment, but of power.

The professional politician is a pretender whose currency is a favor – an earmark for you in exchange for an earmark for me, with which to buy votes at home. It does not matter that none of it is good fore the Country; it is good for the politician. A professional politician’s vote is predicated on his own best interest. He knows what he must do to survive in party politics — as some ladies have known from time immemorial.

The electorate’s only hope is not third parties, but rather, no parties. States should elect their political representatives from among independent candidates put forward by counties or regions of each state. No D or R – just honest people willing to commit to a term of public service. No more professional politicians with lifetime sinecures. No more party-line votes – just a body of independent individuals from all walks of life, with real-world experience, who after one term of service would return to their communities to live under the laws they enacted. Without a re-election campaign looming for a politician to finance, special interests will lose their influence, and without party pressure to toe the party line, legislators will evaluate proposals solely on merit. No sweetheart deals, no pork. With staggered one-term tenures, legislators would not have time to build power alliances.

It might be argued that with all those independent-minded individuals populating Congress, it would be difficult to find consensus and pass legislation. That is the way it should be. Only important and needed legislation would find consensus. There are altogether too many laws now, and the propensity for legislators to meddle would be contained. The less Congress does, the less harm they do, and the better off we all are.


October 31st, 2010
10:21 am

Hey I have a great idea . Let us go back to the republican policies that led to a banking system collapse , the near end of our automotive industry , the deregulation that led to the Gulf oil Spill , the policies that left New Orleans an utter disaster after Katrina , two unfunded wars , and vile contempt from everyone in the world including our ‘allies . So how did that path work out the 1st time ?


October 31st, 2010
5:34 pm

Funny how the backers of the two parties that got us into this financial crisis still defend their parties. The only way to fix this country is to get the money out of the elections, deny lobbyists access to politicians, impose term limits and put all candidates on equal spending during a campaign. Let them fight it out in the theater of ideas not advertising. This will never happen. Why do candidates spend millions of their own for a 250 k a year job? There must be rewards on the back end we never find out about. Call the Tea Party what you will but it is a start to a much more uncivil group that will openly express their outrage and disdain for our self serving corrupt politicians. Maybe fear will force them to do right by their constituents….


October 31st, 2010
7:23 pm

Until there is campaign reform, there will be no change in anything. The only monies available should be those that are checked off on our tax forms. That is the only amount for the candidates to spend. Then the monies will be used wisely without excess corporate or lobbyists monies to be spent on attack ads.