By KEVIN BRYANT and JEFF DUNCAN - Guest Columnists
Two years ago, following the first Republican bloodletting, our colleague Sen. Danny Verdin wrote that the election “turned not on the voters’ embrace of ideas offered by Democrats but the voters’ rejection of Republicans who abandoned them.” Today, following further losses in Congress and the loss of the White House, Sen. Verdin’s diagnosis stands out in bold. Republicans can blame no one but themselves for their exile.
Two years ago federal spending had increased 69 percent since 1994, and 49 percent since 2001 alone. It never stopped growing, and now the Heritage Foundation reports that it is 57 percent higher than 2001.
Republicans hoped two years ago that Randy Cunningham, Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley would be exceptions that prove the rule. However, corruption continues unabated. Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens is a convicted felon, and of course there’s Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig.
The primary reason Republicans fell like a stone this year is that they have the sense of a box of rocks. A good friend of ours likes to say there’s no education in the second kick of the mule. The only hope therefore is that the second kick just received will rid of us of the folks who don’t seem to get the fact that the American public is tired of broken promises, hypocrisy and outright lies.
What the public does want is conservative leadership. Sen. Verdin pointed out two years ago that “The evidence clearly proves that conservative issues and candidates win.” Voters affirmed that fact again this year as they approved conservative measures and candidates from coast to coast.
Arizona approved a marriage amendment by 12 percentage points and increases in penalties on illegal hiring by 18 points. Arkansas passed a ban on adoptions by same-sex couples by 13 points. California voted for Obama by a 24 point margin, but it also preserved traditional marriage by 4 points. Florida went for Obama by 3 points and also preserved traditional marriage by 24.
San Francisco, the pit of despair for most conservatives, actually rejected the legalization of prostitution, a ban of Junior ROTC from high school campuses and the renaming of the sewer treatment plant for President Bush. Talk about hope for change.
Conservative candidates also won in Obama states. Obama carried Indiana, but so did the conservative governor, Mitch Daniels, by 18 points.
The 2008 election indicates that when voters in most places are given a chance to vote for conservatives or conservative positions, they do.
The majority of voters chose not, of course, to vote for John McCain. Sen. McCain would have earned more votes if he had presented more voters with a conservative choice.
We wish Sen. McCain had explained that the difference between a tax credit and “spreading the wealth” is that the former is when you keep your own money and the latter is when government takes your money and gives it to someone else.
We wish Senator McCain had not said that, “you don’t raise taxes in a bad economy” and instead said: “We have enough revenue in Washington. We don’t need to raise taxes at all.”
We really, really wish Sen. McCain had said in answer to Jim Lehrer’s question on whether he would support the bailout that not only would he not support it but also that he would lie down in the Senate floor before politicians stuck taxpayers with a $700 billion bill for a problem that politicians created in the first place. We really wish he had said that instead of, “oh of course I’ll vote for it.”
He did not, however, and therefore conservatives were left wondering whether Sen. McCain really believed in the same things they do. The majority of the Republican Party currently suffers from the same disease as Democrats before them and, for that matter, the same disease as Wall Street bankers. They simply believe that government is a good thing and more government must, by definition, be an even better thing.
Meanwhile, a recent survey indicates that while only 9 percent of voters believe that the Republican Party is too conservative, more than 60 percent believe it has either “lost its way” or become “incompetent.”
The voters get it. If Republicans ever want to regain the mandate of the voters, they need to take the hint: Do what you promise you’ll do, not what Democrats do.
Republicans do not need to search their souls. They need simply to revisit their principles. And this time, they need to stick to them.
Mr. Bryant represents Anderson County in the S.C. Senate. Mr. Duncan represents Laurens and Newberry counties in the S.C. House.