That’s the question Rich Lowery asks and answers in a piece today at NRO. By "adult" in government he means, "political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly, and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship."
What he doesn’t mean is political leaders who push an extremist agenda regardless of the reality of the situation that surrounds them – such as what we have today.
Unsurprisingly, he finds his adults in government not at a federal level, but at the state level. Two in particular are making both waves and progress against daunting problems. And they should be the new proto-type GOP candidate for federal executive office:
Look in particular to New Jersey and Indiana, where Govs. Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are forging a limited-government Republicanism that connects with people and solves problems. They are models of how to take inchoate dissatisfaction with the status quo, launder it through political talent, and apply it in a practical way to governance.
Christie has just concluded a six-month whirlwind through Trenton that should be studied by political scientists for years to come. In tackling a fiscal crisis in a state groaning under an $11 billion deficit, he did his fellow New Jerseyans the favor of being as forthright as a punch in the mouth. And it worked.
Christie traveled the state making the case for budgetary retrenchment, and he frontally took on the state’s most powerful interest, the teachers’ union. He rallied the public and split the Democrats, in a bravura performance in the lost art of persuasion. At the national level, George W. Bush thought repeating the same stalwart lines over and over again counted as making an argument, and Barack Obama has simply muscled through his agenda on inflated Democratic majorities. Christie actually connected.
He matched unyielding principle (determined to balance the budget without raising taxes, he vetoed a millionaires’ tax within minutes of its passage) with a willingness to take half a loaf (he wanted a constitutional amendment to limit property taxes to 2.5 percent, but settled with Democrats for an imperfect statutory limit). He’ll need an Act II to get deeper, institutional reforms, but New Jersey is now separating itself from those other notorious wastrels, California and Illinois.
What Chris Christie has done, if nothing else, is prove the point that a) voters want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, unvarnished and without the usual nebulous rhetoric. And b) tell them what is necessary to fix the problem in the same manner.
Voters, given the problem and his plan, have backed him as he’s tackled what was considered previously untouchable and insolvable. And he’s made progress – much more progress than anyone previously and against two powerful entities, the teacher’s union and the Democratic legislature.
It is my opinion, given the present situation in the White House, that voters are going to insist on two things. One is they’re going to want executive experience as a “must have or no deal” criteria for the next president. And two, they’re going to insist the media actually spend the time doing their job vetting the candidates vs. taking on a cheerleading role as they did in the last election.
Speaking to the first point, this new breed of tough, small-government conservative politician emerging in some of the states may be the prototype for the GOP’s next successful challenge. Mitch Daniels of Indiana may be another one to look at:
He inherited a $200 million deficit in 2004, which he turned into a $1.3 billion surplus — just in time for it to act as a cushion during the recession. He has reformed government services and rallied his administration around one simple, common-sense goal: “We will do everything we can to raise the net disposable income of individual Hoosiers.”
What most voters don’t want is the current crop of GOP front runners. Whether anyone viable (I’m even upbeat about Bobby Jindal again) will actually show up in 2012 remains to be seen, but the Romney (damaged goods), Palin (too partisan and not enough exec experience), Gingrich (too much baggage), Huckabee (scares the hell out of me) cabal is not what will win, or if one of them does, won’t keep it long.
Guys (and gals) like Christie and Daniels should be groomed carefully by the GOP and convinced to consider a run on a national level. And others who fit their profile should be identified as soon as possible and supported at the state level to get the experience, exposure and the resume together that will put them in a position to go national as well.
Thanks to Obama and friends, this is a real opportunity for the limited government, fiscally conservative majority in this country. And that’s plenty to run on, given this mess we’re in. What the GOP has got to do is stay away from the social con nonsense that always polarizes the electorate and drives independents to distraction and into staying at home (or voting for the other team) on election day.
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About a week ago, amidst all the hoopla about the health care bill and then missed when the atrocity of Ft. Hood occurred, was this:
Even as a Senate global-warming bill remained in limbo with Democrats refusing to delay a committee vote until an economic analysis was completed, hopes rose for a potential bipartisan compromise.
The Senate, meanwhile, appears to be moving away from the bill, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., which would require a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and would have the government sell the right to emit carbon dioxide.
Even as Boxer conducted an unusual one-sided hearing on her bill in the Environment and Public Works Committee, Kerry, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., held a news conference to announce they are working on a compromise that might attract GOP votes and has earned a tentative endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So, here we have a Republican, sort of, lending a hand to the Democrats and buying into the premise that a) this cap-and-trade economy killer of a tax is valid and b) needed. He just wants to modify it a bit:
Kerry, Lieberman and Graham released few details about the new bill, but said it would include a cap and trade proposal. They said it would also address increasing nuclear energy, more drilling and clean coal technology, all initiatives that are high on the wish list of Republicans willing to work on a climate change compromise.
Of course this is the sort of legislative formula which is killing our country. This is exactly how the lousy legislation gets through the system. Republicans like Graham buy into the premise of cap-and-trade, try to get it reduced just a little bit to make it more palatable, and then attempts to sell it by including things that Republicans want – more drilling, nukes and clean coal.
The problem, of course, is with Democrats in charge, you can count on cap-and-trade being implemented, but for some reason, you can bet that more drilling, nuclear power and clean coal just won’t see the same urgency to implement found among majority Democrats. So in essence, what Graham is proposing is tantamount to selling out the GOP’s principled position for the 30 pieces of silver offered in promises for things Republicans want.
You’d think by now, having watched the Democratic shenanigans with drilling (are we doing so yet or are they still “slow-walking” the process) they’d know better.
The Graham capitulation has been noticed by his home state party.
The Charleston County Republican Party’s executive committee took the unusual step Monday night of censuring U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for stepping across the GOP party line.
County Chairwoman Lin Bennett said the unanimous vote “is an effort to get his attention. They (party leaders) are just fed up, and they want him to know they’re fed up.”
The resolution mentions Graham’s cooperation with U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on a bipartisan energy bill, and his support for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and the time he called some opponents of immigration reform “bigots.”
Sure it’s only one county doing so, but it is an unusual step. And frankly, I think it is a long overdue one. Graham’s actions, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the main reasons the GOP is in the shape it is in. There is a time to work in a bi-partisan manner and there is a time to stand on principle. The GOP supposedly believes we’re over taxed, a position I happen to support as well. So why is a member of that party stepping across party lines and lending support to what everyone, even Democrats, acknowledge is a new huge and burdensome tax?
Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham again when he says he’s against new taxes when he’s involved with Democrats proposing one? Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham when he says he’s against excessive spending when he voted for TARP?
The answers to those two questions tell you precisely why even the GOP’s base doesn’t trust Republican legislators and why their collective poll numbers remain dismal. Calling Graham to account for his position is both healthy and necessary if, in fact, the GOP is serious about its principles. And, if the Tea Parties are any indication, it is clear the base is. And apparently the GOP’s grass-roots are willing to stand up as well as indicated by this county organization’s censure of Graham.
I wonder if Graham will get the message or arrogantly dismiss it as he’s been known to do in the past? The reason the GOP is in the minority right now isn’t because it is a conservative organization that appeals only to old white men in the South. It’s a minority organization because its own base doesn’t trust it to live up to its own principles. How do you generate the enthusiasm necessary to turn out the vote if what the base is left to vote for is a version of Lindsey Graham’s Democrat lite?
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Maybe a better question is “how far out of touch is the RNC” since Dede Scozzafava was their candidate?
Dede Scozzafava, the Republican and Independence parties candidate, announced Saturday that she is suspending her campaign for the 23rd Congressional District and releasing all her supporters.
Ms. Scozzafava told the Watertown Daily Times that Siena Research Institute poll numbers show her too far behind to catch up – and she lacks enough money to spend on advertising in the last three days to make a difference. Mr. Owens has support from 36 percent of likely voters in the poll, with Mr. Hoffman garnering 35 percent support. Ms. Scozzafava has support from 20 percent of those polled.
Now I have no idea if that means Mr. Hoffman will win (if the 20% Ms. Scozzafava had were really GOP supporters then he should win in a walk – but given Scozzafava’s more liberal leanings on many issues such as card check that’s a toss up), but what this indicates is the rank-and-file GOP voters aren’t at all satisfied with the RNC’s strategy or choices (as an aside, the fact that Scozzavafa hasn’t enough money left to spend on advertising says, at least, that the RNC knows it was supporting a loser). It seems to me to be a pretty in-your-face repudiation of this “big tent” theory of theirs which says “we’ll compromise our principles to boost our numbers”. Instead they seem to favor the “here’s our tent, if you like what we stand for, you’re welcome to come in” approach.
It’ll be interesting to see how the RNC and the establishment GOP types react to this mini-revolution. Given their tone-deafness of the past, they’ll ignore it and pay the consequences in 2010. But I see that as a very, very interesting turn of events.
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Worst. Advice. Ever.
Seriously. I hear this all the time, and it is nonsense. It gives credence to opposition propaganda spin.
It is bad advice because it conflates the job of legislators with the party’s job of building the party and attracting new voters. And that’s true for both parties. The GOP is supposedly the ideological opposite of the Democrats. That would tell most voters that the GOP most likely to oppose what the Democrats propose in the legislative process.
Guess what – that makes them the party of “no”. That’s their job, if they believe in the ideological principles which supposedly undergird their party. As I recall it, the Democrats had absolutely no problem being the party of “no” when they were in the minority. In fact, they reveled in it. And look where they are now.
He told the group that Republicans are often “too nostalgic” and that the party needs to be more “forward looking” in order to regain national success. Bush reminded the audience that voter demographics are changing and called for the party to become more “youthful” and to abandon their image as “the old white guy party.” “Tone matters,” Bush said, “in twenty or so years our country will have a minority majority.”
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the party must move towards the center. When asked by a student if the party platform needed to become more moderate on social issues, Bush replied, “no.” Rather, he stressed that Republicans “need to apply conservative principles to 21st century problems.”
What Bush describes here is the job of the party, not its legislative representatives. Their job is to represent their constituency and to oppose legislation that isn’t in keeping with the desires of their constituency and ideology. That means, when Democrats are in power, saying “no” a lot.
On the other hand, where is the GOP’s plan to become more ‘youthful’? Where is it’s media campaign to change the “tone”?
Where is the plan to “apply conservative principles to 21st century problems?” Or, more succinctly, why hasn’t the party produced these plans in anticipation of the fight for Congressional seats in 2010?
As far as I can tell, the party is AWOL in all those areas.
In the meantime, the GOP legislators, for the most part, are doing precisely the job they should be doing – if the GOP actually believes in the principles they espouse – and that is being the party of “no”. And if they want to build any credibility at all, they must continue to be the party of “no” (just as the Democrats would be if the positions were reversed). Abandoning that would be the worst mistake they could make.
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When your political opposition is self-destructing (even while in the majority and in control of the legislative and executive branches), most political observers would advise stepping back and allowing them to do so.
But not the Republicans. They’re going to be the “significant other” that gives this president a win on his signature issue and help him maintain both his momentum and the viability of the rest of his agenda.
The “I told you so” part of this is, as I (and many others) have said, Democrats will eventually pass something they can call “health care reform” and save the viability of Obama’s presidency. What you didn’t figure is the Republicans would be both complicit and key to that:
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) confirmed that the three Republicans and three Democrats negotiating the Senate Finance bill are moving away from a broad-based mandate that would force employers to offer insurance. The senators instead are leaning toward a “free rider” provision that requires employers to pay for employees who receive coverage through Medicaid or who receive new government subsidies to purchase insurance through an exchange.
Snowe stressed the committee hasn’t reached a final agreement on any of the key provisions but said, “There is not a broad-based employer mandate. … There are approximately 170 million Americans that receive coverage through employers. That is a significant percentage of the population. We don’t want to undermine that or create a perverse incentive where employers drop the coverage because their employees could potentially get subsidies through the exchange.”
On the nonprofit insurance cooperative, Snowe also said no final decisions have been reached, but “it is safe to say it is probably one that will remain in the final document.”
This is what everyone who talks about it means when they say that Republicans “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk”. Here is a group, and I’d bet there are more that will sign on, who are involved in one of the biggest expansions of government undertaken since the “New Deal”. And when November of next year rolls around, this is the party that is going to want you to believe they are all for less government, less spending and less government intrusion.
And they’ll have this to point to as proof. [/sarc]
The reason the GOP is a shrinking party isn’t because it is the party of the Southern white male. It’s because no believes their nonsense any longer. Sometimes being the party of “no” is the right thing to do.
[Welcome RCP readers]
First Paul Krugman calls anyone who opposes climate change legislation “traitors against the planet”. We then have Al Gore claiming fighting those who oppose such legislation akin to fighting Nazis. The latest to resort to ad hominem is Henry Waxman, who claims the GOP, and by implication, anyone who is against the nonsense he just pushed through the House is an unpatriotic so-and-so:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has had an eventful couple of weeks to say the least, believes House Republican opposition to climate change legislation and the stimulus indicates they’re cheering against the good ol’ US of A.
“It appears that the Republican Party leadership in the Congress has made a decision that they want to deny President Obama success, which means, in my mind, they are rooting against the country, as well,” the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told WAMU radio host Diane Rehm on Tuesday morning, promoting his new book, “The Waxman Report.”
Yeah, see it couldn’t at all be that they’re concerned with the crippling effect it will have on the economy or that it is based in bad science that is daily being successfully challenged. Or that the stimulus was a bad idea that put us into much worse shape fiscally while doing very little to help the economy.
Nope, it’s all about wanting to “deny President Obama success”, and that, of course means it is OK to question their patriotism.
Because, as we’ve all learned, since the election of Obama and the rise of the Democrat left, dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism, is it?
UPDATE: Oops – looks like Michael and I came to the same conclusion at about the same time. Ah well, such is blogging – read ‘em both. They’re just different enough (and short enough) to warrant it. And btw, Michael, it doesn’t surprise me that Steve Benen, hack that he is, doesn’t find the rhetoric to be “over the top” when a Democrat says it, but would be devoting a full week of outraged blogging if it had been the other way around.