Quietly, behind the scenes, the Republican Party is bracing itself for a culture shock. Current polling has principled conservative tea-party types leading in House and Senate races all across the country. If on November 2nd the pattern holds, the beltway establishment will be rocked.
That prospect has many in the Republican Party scratching their heads wondering just how to deal with these newcomers.
Major Garrett has a must-read run-down of the lengths to which Republicans are worrying about an insurgent class of conservative freshmen:
McConnell frets, however, about controlling expectations among tea party activists likely to want-and quite possibly demand-that bigger GOP numbers in Congress produce big things: a swift repeal of the health care reform law; a massive U-turn on federal spending; and immediate action to reduce the national debt. Tea party darling and likely freshman mover-and-shaker Marco Rubio of Florida, for instance, summed up the movement's ax-wielding gusto in July: "Every day we postpone acting decisively to rein in wasteful spending and cut the debt, we pile even more on the backs of millions of young Americans."
Indeed, the Marco Rubios of the 112th Congress will have been sent to Washington with a crystal clear mandate: cut spending, repeal Obamacare and defeat tax increases. Or, as Jim DeMint puts it in the Garrett piece, to create "a realignment of American politics."
But some GOP-establishment folks seem to be missing this point. What they fail to understand is that the American people are not stupid. Nobody is going to hold Marco Rubio or his Party responsible if they do what the voters sent them to Washington to do, but are thwarted by liberals in the Administration or in the Senate. But voters who are sick and tired of status-quo Washington-deal-making will certainly be upset if they see principled conservatives come to Washington and be "co-opted" with a case of Potomac Fever.
What people want to see is politicians who vote on principle. In other words, politicians who vote for the right thing based on their conscience and their mandate from the electorate.
The problem we have right now is that many Republicans are preparing for the wrong fight. The Politico reports:
One of the great story lines of the next two years will be how Republicans manage senators who are coming to wage a philosophical war about the nature of governance, not to win a cool committee assignment or roll up their sleeves and begin a long career of legislating.
Instead of preparing to "manage" an incoming class of conservatives, the Republican Party should set its sights on crafting a conservative policy agenda equal to the times that we are in. Stop worrying about "managing expectations" and whatever it is liberals in Washington will do to put the brakes on real reform. Start worrying about how to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose to the American people.
Maybe, if Republicans accomplish the latter in the 112th Congress, voters will give them another chance in 2012.