Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/08/2008 (10:57 am)

The Day After the Core Republican Debate

I trotted out my comments from yesterday in front of some conservative intellectuals over at What’s Wrong With the World, and got a few polite yawns. Starting a new party doesn’t seem to them very exciting or effective. It doesn’t to me, either, so I’m thinking instead of activism to produce structural changes in government.

Michelle Malkin gave us a little pep talk yesterday: “Don’t calm down, get fired up!” She advocates supporting Congressional candidates who believe like we do, and local initiatives that accomplish what we ought to accomplish. Of course, she’s right, and we’ll certainly do that. But we need to do some more radical things as well.

With all respect to Ms. Malkin and her astonishing blogging success, she’s young, and some of us have been here before. I was a liberal youth when Nixon perceptively invoked the “great, silent majority” back in 1969, and a religiously active young family man during the 80s when Christian leaders were denouncing Pietism and encouraging their congregations to get involved in politics. We took Malkin’s advice back then before she gave it, and elected a large number of genuinely conservative politicians to Washington in an attempt to take back the culture.

Washington corrupted them. They liked the junkets, they liked the attention, they liked the power. Who wouldn’t? They became the toys of lobbyists and enriched themselves rather than carrying out their mandate. Therein lies the first problem we must solve.

From the Wall Street Journal of January 2006:

The real House GOP problem isn’t about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles. As their years in power have stretched on, House Republicans have become more passionate about retaining power than in using that power to change or limit the federal government. Gathering votes for serious policy is difficult and tends to divide a majority. Re-election unites them, however, so the leadership has gradually settled for raising money on K Street and satisfying Beltway interest groups to sustain their incumbency.

This strategy has maintained a narrow majority, but at the cost of doing anything substantial. The last year in particular was an historic lost opportunity. House Republicans were also the main culprit in watering down Medicare reform, while Ohio’s Mike Oxley has run the Financial Services Committee more or less as liberal Barney Frank would. Beyond welfare reform and tax cuts (and perhaps health-savings accounts), the GOP has achieved little in the last decade that will outlast the next Democratic majority.

Some sort of drastic Congressional reform is called for to prevent this from happening again. I think perhaps instead of investing our energy in forming a new party, we need to assault the structures of Congress and force dramatic change: term limits by way of Constitutional amendment, earmark prevention by eliminating riders, and lobbying reform requiring full disclosure of funding sources. Then, the next time the center-right majority elects a wave of Young Turks to clean up Washington, they might actually do what they were sent to do.

I still haven’t decided how I’m going to vote in the fall. However, serious commitment to Congressional reform seems like a good start, and unless I’m mistaken, the initiative to bring about this change will not come from Congress; it has to come from us.

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February 11, 2008 @ 9:26 am #

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