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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Will the GOP be Katrina's Biggest Casualty?

This column originally appeared on Townhall.com:

"Yes, President Bush gave a good speech Thursday night but no amount of inspiring rhetoric can obscure the fact that Hurricane Katrina may well have drowned the Republican Party as a credible vehicle of conservative reform.
"Why? Consider House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s stunning assertion the day before Bush spoke from New Orleans that 11 years of GOP control of Congress has 'pared [government] down pretty good.'
"Here’s what he said when a puzzled reporter asked if Delay really was suggesting there is no fat to cut in the federal budget to help pay Katrina recovery costs: 'My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet.'
"Neither Tip O’Neill nor Jim Wright – two powerful former Democratic Speakers of the House famous for their big spending ways – could have said it better than Delay.
"The worst thing about Delay’s comment is not its factual unreality, bad as that is, but what the remark says about the GOP congressional leadership’s attitude about spending our tax dollars.
"'We’ve already cut it to the bone' or 'there isn’t any more fat to cut' or variations thereof were typical responses from O’Neill and Wright to critics of excessive federal spending. The truth then as now is the federal government was and is shot through with monumental waste, fraud and inefficiency.
"Today Delay sings the Democrats’ tune as the GOP leadership in the House and Senate gives President Bush more blank checks to finance a Katrina recovery that promises epic boondoggles. So we get the same result no matter which party controls Congress.
"The GOP’s prospective fall could be much more swift than the Democrats in 1994, however, because of the Internet. Then, the mainstream media’s lock on the news meant it took years for enough voters to finally get the message that it was time for a change in Washington.
"The GOP pork barons on Capitol Hill can’t count on such protection. The Talk Radio and cable TV that broke the mainstream media monopoly are being succeeded by the Blogosphere that instantly spreads the word about events inside the Beltway.
"Judging by the response to my recent column here on Townhall.com asking if the time has come for conservatives to dump the GOP, word about Republican hypocrisy in the nation’s capitol is being heard loud and clear beyond the Beltway.
"The 'time to dump the GOP' column generated more than 200 emails, many brimming with anger, disbelief and disgust. Less than a dozen came from people saying the GOP is just fine. The vast majority said they either have already or are planning to switch to the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party.
"Emails inspired by an online column don’t make a scientific survey, of course, but what if those responses do reflect an as-yet unreported gathering revolt of the GOP base? All that’s required for a GOP-majority ending electoral earthquake is five percent or so of the base staying home or voting third party on election day.
"It’s hard to deny such an earthquake is coming when there are so many signs 'out there.' They are most obvious and intense whenever discussion turns to protecting America’s borders. Millions of illegal aliens are streaming into America and there is no doubt terrorist operatives are among them, yet Bush and the congressional GOP seem to have no clue about the political consequences of not stopping the alien invasion.
"Now it appears issues like out-of-control spending are also generating pre-shocks. A fall became certain when people became convinced in the months leading up to the 1994 election that entrenched majority Democrats had lost touch with the electorate, lacked credibility when promising reform and were too attached to the perks of power.
"That is why Delay’s comments should send shudders down the spine of every GOP strategist. The House Majority Leader’s attitude tells legions of the GOP’s most faithful supporters that the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has irreparably lost its way.
"Political parties in America don’t always die quickly. It took several elections before the demise of the Federalists and the Whigs became obvious to all but the most die-hard supporters. Thanks to the microchip, the GOP might not have long to linger once the base splinters."