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.