As some of you may have noticed, my participation in the RedState community has dropped significantly since the primaries. Several factors both personal and political contributed to my relative absence, not the least of which was my dissatisfaction with our Presidential nominee. Our grim prospects in Congressional races didn’t help. Those factors, combined with my personal situation and need to focus more on thins non-electronic, brought me to the conclusion that it was time for me to take a break.
Now that the election is over, I think it’s time for me to reintegrate, though perhaps in a reduced capacity. Being a sports fan and liking clear-cut wins and losses, I much prefer dealing with the electoral rather than the policy aspects of politics. To be sure, I understand that policy is much more important, and I have strong views on a variety of subjects, but my talents and my interests lead me to believe that I am more productive when focusing on the former. As such, I was extremely tempted to write my first post-election diary on the 2010 Senate races. Unfortunately for me, though, I think that that approach would only, albeit in a small way, lead us further down the same road we’re on.Many of us, myself included, have in various degrees fallen into the same Washington-think that often turns many good conservative candidates into poor public officials, and ultimately brought us to our demise of the last two elections. We (and by “we” I mean some of us, not all of us) have focused far too much on recruiting and electing the Republicans whom we perceive to have the best chance of defeating the Democrat. In some cases, this has led to many Republicans talking more about bringing home the bacon than core conservative principles.
Instead, I propose that we focus primarily on our message. We need to find things, big things, in which we, our candidates, our allies, and our Party can agree. We must have a bold, coherent, unified message. Then we can worry about finding the candidates who both believe in that message and can effectively communicate it to the voting public.
As such, I would like to put forth ten proposals as a starting point for discussion on such a message:
- A Balanced Budget Amendment – This obviously won’t pass within the next few years, but we do need to start talking about it again. If the Democrats really want to campaign against it, let them. Both parties have stopped talking about the national debt, but oddly enough, that hasn’t solved the problem. Even if we don’t pass the Amendment in the foreseeable future, discussion of it will remind people of its import and we may actually be able to start passing some balanced budgets if we manage to retake Congress. At the very least, we can force the Democrats to come closer than they otherwise would to doing so.
- Returning off-budget spending to standard appropriations process – Off-budget spending is a national joke. The Heritage Primer there-on is old, and the numbers have since skyrocketed, but the problem remains the same. Saying that we have to afford something does not mean that we can. By putting those programs back on-budget, we will remind the public of just how much they cost and how dire the need for reform is.
- No new federal entitlement programs – Arguably the greatest betrayal of conservative principles since Republicans took over Congress in 1994 was the Prescription Drug Benefit, which flew in the face of our long-standing advocacy for limited government. We are supposed to be the Party of small government, and we lost quite a bit of our credibility when our President and several of our members of Congress decided on the largest expansion thereof in decades. For the sake of the country, our principles, and the Party, we can’t allow that to happen again.
- Requirement for an estimated cost for all spending bills a minimum of five legislative days prior to Congressional votes there-on – I’d strongly suggest visiting the provided for more information on this. It seems that at least annually, often more frequently, Congress passes legislation of which everyone has written part but nobody has read. Money gets wasted because Congressional staffs simply don’t have time to read the legislation on which their members are voting. It’s time to reign in this costly practice.
Prohibition on gifts and junkets – Ordinary taxpayers don’t get even close to the access to their members of Congress that corporations, advocacy groups, and large donors do even just based on the contributions that those parties make to campaigns and parties. I’m not against advocacy at all, but when that advocacy is advanced and enhanced by items and services that personally benefit members and their families, one can’t help but recognize the all-too-great possibility of conflicts of interest arising.
The Enumerated Powers Act – This legislation got some great, albeit passing, coverage here a while back. The biggest problem with the government right now is not the system but the lack of concern for it. The powers of Congress, and the Court for that matter, are strictly limited by the Constitution. Sadly, that document has been ignored for decades, resulting in an out of control federal government the power of which has become all but unlimited thanks to an “interpretation” of the Constitution that places the preamble before the text. The Enumerated Powers Act, or even serious discussion thereof, would effectively cripple any attempts to expand the federal government beyond its current bounds and could even potentially reign government in as unconstitutional programs come up for appropriations.
- End to no-bid contracts – While it may appear otherwise, this is not a shot at the Bush Administration. This is about looking forward, not backward. In attempts to reign in spending and reduce conflicts of interest, the government must take advantage of every opportunity for transparency and frugality. Ending no-bid contracts would reduce the potential for corruption and offer a means for the government to save money in the process.
Reassertion of Congressional Authority Over the Courts
- Support for the vacating of decisions in which the majority opinion cites foreign laws – This one’s pretty straight-forward and could potentially apply only to future decisions, as some earlier rulings may have been grounded in the Constitution but refer in passing to the laws of foreign nations. This could just be a warning not to repeat that in the future.
- Statutory definition of “good behavior” – The Constitution allows judges to serve during “good behavior” and authorized Congress to remove them. Note that the standard was different from that of the President, who could be impeached and removed for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Sadly, some judges do not meet that standard. Although we must be careful that Supreme Court Justices are never removed strictly for political purposes, we can argue that those who either cite foreign law in their decisions or fail to ground their decisions in the Constitution fail to meet a very basic standard for “good behavior” and are not fulfilling their duties responsibly. Congress should set a statutory definition of “good behavior” to remind judges of the limitations on their authority and to set a workable standard for those limitations.
Explicit Declarations of War
- Support for explicit declarations of war for all future invasions of foreign nations in which a primary aim of the mission is the replacement of the government* – This isn’t about the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is about the Constitution and a means of ensuring that our military has sufficient national support when entering into a conflict. For those of you who considered the authorization of the use of force the equivalent to a declaration of war, you should at the very least have no reason to oppose this. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and does not offer alternatives. An explicit declaration of war would, in my view, much more effectively commit all of its supporters to the success of the mission and inhibit the ability of one-time proponents to go back and say, “That’s not what I meant.”
Whether these are the principles upon which we can reach agreement or some changes need to be made, finding a unified conservative message is the first step not simply toward regaining Republican control of government but, much more importantly, to restoring conservative principles to policy. Once we accomplish that, we can go about finding the best candidates to explain, promote, and implement them. If we take this approach, I think we will have a much better chance of avoiding the mistakes of the past and accomplishing many of the things at which we failed.
I understand that this will cause at least a few eyes to roll, but if you find that this is the primary issue that you take with this entry, I would simply urge that you not throw the baby out with the bathwater.