It was demonstrated to us in bright lights during the last Presidential campaign how political speeches and promises have almost no relationship to the way a politician will act in office. The open question is, will the Congressional election of 2010 demonstrate the same thing? Do Republicans have the will to reduce the size and spending of government as they so clearly promised?
Today’s top headline in the New York Times reads: “Republicans in House Battle Turmoil in their Ranks, Rebellion on Spending” .
There are many complex decisions, and enormous detail to be sorted through, but the real question in essence is, do Republicans have the will– or better said, the “guts”– to make the cuts that need to be made? Are they willing to take the political risks, or live with the consequences, associated with reducing government spending on programs which are encouraged by their campaign donors and special interests? One very reasonable argument would be that by cutting wasteful spending– and at least 20% of government spending is waste– will the Republicans ensure the return of the Democrats to House leadership because they so offend Republican donor interests? The counter argument to this is, are the American people as a whole so fed up with our bloated government and excessive taxes that any politician who supports thoughtfully cutting spending will be re-elected overwhelmingly?
We need, but likely do not have, a bunch of Chris Christie’s in the House and Senate. Chris Christie says, and surely means, that he doesn’t care if he’s re-elected. He was “put in Trenton to govern”. Or, as he expressed in a speech recently, “I’ve already got the portrait in the Governor’s Mansion, now it’s just a matter of what dates they put on the plaque at the bottom”.
Will the Republicans decide to take a deep breath, swallow hard, and do what’s right for the American people, and let the political chips fall where they may? Or will they fall into the same old pattern, promise “x”, and deliver “y”? Republicans can bet that if they step up to the difficult decisions that need to be made, Democrats will advertise and speak heavily against their cuts. They will, as they did with President Bush’s social security reform package (and Republicans did with a few elements of the healthcare bill), completely distort the purpose and impact of the cuts. Republicans need to act carefully but aggressively, and be willing to potentially sacrifice their re-election for the benefit of Americans.
I believe if they do the right things, make appropriate cuts and communicate the plan and purpose, that they will be rewarded with re-election. And if they aren’t re-elected, they can sleep well at night knowing they did the right things during the time they had in office, during the time the had the honor to serve their country. After all, to say “I served in the House of Representatives in 2011 and 2012 and we transformed the country” seems to me much better than saying “I served in the House of Representatives for 6 years, and I just kicked the can down the road to get the second and third terms”.