TCS Daily

Republican Revolution Redux

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - February 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Last week, the House Republican Conference held an election for the position of Majority Leader. Surprising many observers, Representative John Boehner was able to overcome Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt on the second ballot.

As this blog entry notes, Boehner was able to take a middle route between Blunt's appeal as an insider and Representative John Shadegg's attraction as a genuine reformer. That Boehner opposes legislative "earmarks" (read "pork") and has never taken an earmark for his own district speaks well about his capacity to act as a reformer. That he served as the Chairman of the House Republican Conference during the Gingrich era demonstrates that he is familiar with the demands of leadership. Perhaps with Boehner's election, the Conference and the House as a whole are getting the best of both worlds.

Of course, no man is an island. And Boehner did not win the position of Majority Leader without help. Representative Shadegg only pulled 40 votes in the first round of balloting and dropped out, throwing his support behind Boehner. As the most genuine reformer in the race for Majority Leader, Shadegg's decision to endorse Boehner's candidacy gave the new Majority Leader the imprimatur of reformist credentials -- an imprimatur that, along with Boehner's longstanding opposition to congressional pork, may go a long way towards reshaping the culture of the House.

Even more important than the election of a single individual to a position of leadership is the elevation of ideas that are necessary to make that individual successful in the aftermath of the election and in the assumption of the responsibilities that go with being entrusted with a position of leadership. To that end, the new Majority Leader ought to remember that his support at the hands of Representative Shadegg and the reformists was at least as much the rebellion of a set of ideas against the status quo ante as it was the affirmation of an individual candidacy.

And the status quo ante has much to answer for.

Representative Boehner's principled opposition notwithstanding, earmarks and pork-barrel spending are the not-so-dirty secret of the budgetary process. The least attempts to reform the out-of-control spending are invariably described as Scrooge-like and without any redeeming value, despite the modesty of those proposed reforms. A Republican Party dedicated to the principles of small government has now embraced large government for at least as long as it can control the branches of that government and use the resources of the state to augment and enhance its own power.

With this lamentable departure from principles, Republicans who remain faithful to their small government beliefs can be forgiven for wondering why they continue to support of a larger party that seems to have forgotten what it stands for.

It is well and good that there are two distinct schools of thought in American politics; one that believes in the ability of government to act as a force for good and to serve as an agent for change and progress and another that believes that small government and the delegation of authority and decision-making powers to the states, to localities and to individuals comes closest to the character of America. For most -- if not all -- of American history, those two schools of thought have been in conflict. That's fine; philosophical arguments over what the nature of our government should be are ultimately good for the health of our democratic republic. But when both major parties embrace the large government ideal -- one explicitly and the other implicitly -- then we have a serious problem, especially when one of those parties betrays its own principles and the principles of its supporters in the process.

Thus, the most important task facing the new Majority Leader, his Conference and the titular head of the Republican Party -- the President of the United States -- is to recapture and remember what it means to be a Republican.

In seeking to perform his end of the bargain, Representative Boehner will need to reward his benefactors, but he will also need to implement their ideas -- the most important gift those benefactors have given the House Republican Conference. Ideas, it is said, have consequences. And the generation and implementation of ideas faithful to the principles of small government will allow elected Republicans to renew their compact with their supporters, and will also lead to the just and meaningful acquisition of power to do good -- a power freely granted by a discerning electorate. No higher honor can be given to Republicans running for office. Thus, no effort should be spared in earning that honor.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is a TCS contributing writer.



I'll believe reform is here when the government halts all policies that prop up the price of sugar.

Nice Try
But the election of Boehner as House Leader means "corruption as usual" for Republicans. This article has good points about Boehner's resistance to earmarks, if its true. But Boehner is one of Delay's boys, so don't expect much revolution from this guy. Boehner is under the thumb of lobbyists just as much as Delay or Blount. I was astounded to hear Boehner on Meet the Press last weekend glow about what a great friend Delay is, even that Delay is innocent. To top it off Boehner actually stated that if Delay is acquitted, Boehner would discuss stepping down as leader to let Delay step back into the leadership! Revolution Redux my ass! Shadegg was the only hope among those 3 candidates to bring real reform to a corrupt party. I guess they're not rich and fat enough yet, not enough free golf and exotic trips yet. It doesn't matter how the faithful want to paint it, its shameful. Its the Republican Corruption Revolution, and its not over yet.

A Republican Reform Agenda
“And the generation and implementation of ideas faithful to the principles of small government will allow elected Republicans to renew their compact with their supporters”

The “principles of small government” is a bit vague. I would propose a somewhat more detailed reform agenda for Republicans:
1) The Constitutionally mandated functions of the Federal Government, such as the Common Defense, must be performed effectively and as efficiently as possible.
2) All other functions of government must be challenged, at a minimum, in each budget cycle. Are these functions necessary? If so, is the scope of Fed involvement justifiable? If not, how can we do better? No more sacred cows!
3) Each Cabinet’s budget must be analyzed and its budget approved on its merits. No more omnibus, year-end mega-bills laden with special interest legislation.
4) Congress must pass line-item-veto legislation/Constitutional Amendment, so that the Executive office can be of assistance when Congress strays from its duty.

A reformed Republic party should resolve to “right-size” the Federal role…financing only what is Constitutionally required or which the Feds are uniquely qualified to implement.

If the above appears impractical or politically unfeasible to sitting Republicans, then as an alternative I recommend that they enact single-term limits…and give other Americans the opportunity to do better.

Rep. Boehner
One can only hope that Rep. Boehner is more responsive to the commonweal as Majority Leader than he was as Chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Neither he, nor his office, saw fit even to acknowledge several letters and messages I send regarding a idea I had to facilitate an increase of Ph.Ds in the face of the declining U.S. share of those worldwide with those credentials. Apparently, his philosophy as a leader of improving education was "less is more" or "let's have better tests."

That would fit nicely into that overall government philosphy you espouse. However, it is not a matter of "less" or "more", but "leveraging your assets for the greatest gain" that really counts. A real leader in government doesn't need to "reward his benefactors" as much as getting rid of the superfluous and focusing on real opportunities to improve the competitive position and human condition of our nation. Perhaps that is why there are so few "leaders" in government... and why I don't expect Rep. Boehner to emerge as one.

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