Klokkerne ringer … II

Som omtalt flere gange her på stedet (senest her), så går det ikke rigtigt godt for Republikanerne–hverken med politikken eller med meningsmålingerne.  Den klassisk-liberale superblogger Andrew Sullivan var i sidste uge ude med sin nyeste bog, "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back".  Det er næppe alle amerikanske konservative, der vil være enige med den britiske, åbent homoseksuelle Hayekianer i, hvad der er sand konservatisme, men dét, vi har hørt herfra, lyder altså i det store hele ganske godt.  Her er hans dagsaktuelle opsummering af, hvad der er gået galt for Republikanerne under Bush, "The Selling of the Conservative Soul":

"Alongside a 38 percent increase in government spending in five years came the inevitable corruption. When vast increases in spending are at stake, they act like a homing signal for every sleazeball and lobbyist in the country. The number of registered lobbyists in Washington doubled under five years of Bush Republicanism, according to reporter Jeffrey Birnbaum. His explanation? "In the 1990s, lobbying was largely reactive. Corporations had to fend off proposals that would have restricted them or cost them money. But with pro-business officials running the executive and legislative branches, companies are also hiring well-placed lobbyists to go on the offensive and find ways to profit from the many tax breaks, loosened regulations and other government goodies that increasingly are available. … It has been a free-for-all at the trough of your tax-payer dollars. And we're supposed to believe that this is conservatism?"

Iøvrigt er en af artiklerne i dagens Wall Street Journal tæt på samme vinkling af den igangværende midtvejsvalgkamp.  Her skriver debatredaktionens Washington-korrespondent Kimberley Strassel:

"In the Ohio governor's race, Ken Blackwell is trailing his Democratic competitor, Ted Strickland, by double digits. Save a last-minute miracle, Mr. Blackwell will lose the governor's mansion, and so end 16 years of GOP dominance.

In the Florida governor's race, Charlie Crist is leading his Democratic competitor, Jim Davis, by double digits. Save a last-minute misstep, Mr. Crist is set to give the state GOP a third term in the governor's mansion, overseeing a strong Republican legislative majority.

Their respective failure and success is not ideological: Messrs. Blackwell and Crist are both running on the same agenda of tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and broad government reform. This, instead, is a story of the state parties behind them. In Florida, Republicans have spent the past eight years keeping their promises to voters; in Ohio the GOP forgot what "promise" meant somewhere in the '90s. The tale of these two GOPs offers broader lessons for congressional Republicans, who are facing a rout this fall.

That this election is a referendum on the entire Republican philosophy is the standard line so far this year. Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Chuck Schumer argue that voters who vote blue are sending a message that they are tired of Republicans' "extreme" views on national security, taxes or social policy.

Quite the opposite, really. If voters are unhappy with Republicans, it's because the party hasn't lived up to its own principles. In the Capitol, in Ohio, and in plenty of places between and beyond, the party that promised to reform government has become the party of government.

But now look to Florida. Jeb Bush came to office in 1999 touting a sweeping reform agenda of the sort that gives Ms. Pelosi the "extremist" fits. More to the point, the governor, with the support of a Republican legislature, has instituted most of it.

Florida Republicans have passed tax cuts every year of the eight Mr. Bush has held office–a whopping $19 billion, including the elimination of the infamous "intangibles" tax, levied on investments. While Florida's budget has grown at a rapid clip, Mr. Bush vetoed more than $2.1 billion in wasteful spending, earning him the nickname "Veto Corleone" among frustrated state lobbyists. He's trimmed 11,000 state jobs.

Tort reform? Did it. Overhauling the child welfare system? Done. Florida has led the way in greater education accountability and school voucher programs; test scores, especially among minorities, are on the rise. The state won federal permission for the most dramatic Medicaid reforms in the country, the first to inject private competition into the system.

Florida today has the highest rate of job creation in the country, and an unemployment rate of 3.3%. It's bond rating hit triple A. Revenue is pumping into the state coffers, giving Florida $6.4 billion in reserves. Gov. Bush's approval rating stands at 55%. Even the House Democratic leader, Dan Gelber, admitted his chief nemesis was a "rock star."

Mr. Crist, the state attorney general, promises more of the same, and voters have no reason to doubt him. He's already demonstrated reform bona fides as the state education commissioner who helped push through the governor's school reforms. He's promised further tax cuts, and is zeroing in on voter anger over double-digit property tax hikes. Mr. Crist has been blowing past Mr. Davis in fundraising and in opinion polls.

If congressional Republicans are facing a rout come November, it's in no small part because they've been headed down the Ohio highway. A few Supreme Court appointments and tax cuts aside, Republicans have largely abandoned the reform agenda that swept them to power in 1994. Their zeal has instead been directed at retaining power, which explains the earmarking epidemic and the Abramoff corruption that followed. Reform of Medicare and Social Security, the death tax, immigration, health care–all fell off the map.

Democrats would certainly call this agenda extreme, but it was never the existence of the platform that angered voters. It was Republicans' failure to act on it."

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