No fooling

This Washington Examiner editorial warns that conservatives won’t be fooled again — that is, they won’t continue to vote for Republicans unless the president and congressional Republicans govern more like conservatives. The author, Mark Tapscott, explains that the place to start is with tough measures to secure our borders and tighter control on spending.

I agree. Mark may also be right that many conservatives are on the brink of sitting out the 2006 election. However, conservatives who do so (other, perhaps, than those who sit out the Rhode Island Senate race) will be making a big mistake. The notion that the party needs some time out of power to come roaring back as a true conservative entity is misguided.

First, conservatives need to understand that the failure of Republicans to govern as strong conservatives is not the result of moral defects (although some can be found). The core problem is that conservatives do not make up a majority of the electorate. Republicans need the base, but they also need swing voters — they can’t win without both. A defeat at the polls won’t change this. Instead, it will give liberals a chance to govern. They likely will do this in a center-left fashion or worse, and conservatives will be the main losers.

We should also keep in mind that, because this is still a great country, once a party takes power there’s a good chance it will keep it for years. But for a 50-50 race in Florida going Bush’s way, we’d probably be in our 14th straight year of a Democratic presidency. The country likely would have rallied around President Gore after 9/11, thus enabling the Dems to increase their majority in the Senate in 2002 and perhaps recapture the House that year or in 2004.

So let’s push Republicans to build the fence and get a better grip on spending. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that the question of which party holds power is a matter of indifference or that, if defeated, the Republicans are likely to return quickly to power as a much more conservative force.

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