Mark Hillman: GOP must hold to party’s principles |

Mark Hillman: GOP must hold to party’s principles

Mark Hillman
Vail, CO. Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” After being routed at the polls for two consecutive election cycles, Republicans are turning introspective, asking how the party fell out of favor so suddenly and how to correct course.

That introspection includes the inevitable catharsis that exacerbates tensions within the existing right-center political coalition.

Conservatives say moderates were too squishy, especially on spending matters. Moderates say conservatives were too rigid, particularly on social issues. Libertarians say both conservatives and moderates are correct in their diagnoses, but wrong in their prescriptions.

The reality again harkens to Lord Acton’s admonition about the corrupting influence of power. Contrary to advertising messages in the recent campaign, Republicans are people, too, which renders them just as susceptible to allure of authority as their Democrat counterparts.

Sen. Tom Coburn, first elected to the House in the 1994 “Republican revolution,” observed in his book, “Breach of Trust,” that former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Majority Leader Dick Armey, vanguards of the 1994 Republican revolution, quickly became too focused on retaining power rather than advancing the agenda that brought them victory.

With a few exceptions, like reforming welfare and balancing the budget, Republicans’ track record proves Coburn right. Now that Gingrich and Armey have escaped the vortex of elected office, they have re-emerged as leading advocates for governance guided by conservative standards.

Similarly, George W. Bush did not win election by promising to expand Medicare entitlements or by declaring that his chief foreign policy goal would be to “make the world safe for democracy.” While those policies may have produced some short-term political gain, their long-term results eroded the public’s confidence in his ability and his party. So, were the last two elections a referendum on the Republican Party’s core principles or its ability to deliver?

Numerous polls taken close to Election Day confirm that voters simply lost faith in Republicans but remain strongly supportive of core conservative tenants like limited government and low tax rates.

Rasmussen found that 59 percent of voters still agree with Ronald Reagan’s assessment that, more often than not, government is the problem, not the solution. Another survey, taken immediately after the election, found that 63 percent believe that tax cuts are the best economic stimulus, compared to just 20 percent who want more government spending.

Those tenants illustrate the challenge confronting Barack Obama, who as president can no longer be all things to so many people, and the frustration confronting voters whose only choices were Republicans who failed to produce and Democrats who promised “change.”

A Club for Growth survey targeted 12 congressional districts ” including Colorado’s 4th District ” that voted for President Bush in 2004 but overwhelmingly elected Democrats in 2008. That survey found:

n 81 percent of voters said “Republicans used to be the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline and limited government, but in recent years, too many Republicans in Washington have become just like the big spenders they used to oppose.”

n By a margin of 66 percent to 23 percent, those surveyed preferred a candidate who would cut federal spending to one who would increase spending in order to bring home more federal pork.

n 73 percent said the best economic policy is giving everyone the opportunity to create wealth through their own efforts rather than using the tax code to “spread the wealth.”

n 71 percent said government should not guarantee mortgages to help people avoid foreclosure.

n 66 percent want the death tax to die in two years, as scheduled; just 20 percent want to see it resurrected.

n 61 percent said the highest tax rate anyone should pay is 35 percent or less; only 18 percent supported higher rates.

These positions are overwhelmingly supported by Republicans of all varieties, but somehow our leaders in Washington lost their focus.

Before Republicans spend too much time boldly pointing out each others’ warts ” which persuades no one ” we must remember that the principles that unify us are also the principles that, when backed by action, have produced electoral majorities and will continue to do so.

Mark Hillman served as Colorado Senate majority leader and state treasurer.

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