Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Coburn: Behave Like Republicans

Senator Tom Coburn (Wide Stance, Oklahoma) has priceless advice for the rest of his party: behave like Republicans!

Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project and "compassionate conservatism." If the goal of the K Street Project was to earmark and fund raise our way to a filibuster-proof "governing" majority, the goal of "compassionate conservatism" was to spend our way to a governing majority.
...Regaining our brand as the party of fiscal discipline will require us to rejoin Americans in the real world of budget choices and priorities, and to leave behind the fantasyland of borrowing without limits. Instead of adopting earmarks, each Republican can adopt examples of government waste, largess and fraud, and restart the permanent campaign against big government.
Isn't it precious how he puts the word governing in scare quotes?

I'll agree this far: Republicans have worked hard to portray themselves as fiscally disciplined, but they've worked even harder to spend money faster than they can borrow it -- and they can borrow it extremely quickly.

I think the reason for this, um, disconnect is not difficult to discern: American voters love the idea of fiscal discipline -- meaning they love hearing politicians repeat sonorous phrases in its honor -- but they love the reality of fiscal profligacy a lot more. Republicans -- and plenty of Democrats too, for that matter -- want to be seen in the news denouncing wasteful spending; but they also want to be seen the news cutting the ribbon on a new multi-zillion dollar project to add a wing to a veteran's hospital, widen a freeway, expand an airport, research chick peas, build a bridge from an underpopulated town to an unpopulated town, etc.

You have to be pretty dim to miss this dynamic, but nobody accused Senator Tom Coburn of being anything short of dim.

That said, I would love to see Republicans take Coburn's advice and crank it up to 11 heading into the November elections. It shouldn't be difficult -- just list the budget cuts you plan to make, sparing none of the details. Use bar graphs, charts, and other eye-catching graphics to show, down to the cent, precisely where you'll cut. Don't shrink from citing the particulars of how the cuts will affect your constituents. Show voters you're truly serious about fiscal discipline! Details matter!

If Coburn is right, voters will jump at the opportunity to rid themselves of the burdens of federal funds that might otherwise have found its way in their districts, and the Wide Stance will seize both the mantle of fiscal discipline and a healthy majority in Congress.

Please. Do that. Start today, and happy "governing!"

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