By Krista Kafer (firstname.lastname@example.org) It is easy to point out where individuals went wrong – the mortal wound dealt by Marc Holtzman’s divisive, ego-driven bid for governor, for example. Or perhaps what we had going against us. Both Colorado papers were conspicuously biased. One editor-in-chief told a Beauprez insider that it was his paper’s mission to get Ritter elected. Nice commitment to objectivity.
We could point to spurious attack ads – a friend of mine was labeled by his opponent as the pro-cancer candidate. Of course the war and the Administration’s handling of it certainly had an impact.
We could hand the blame around, but in the end Republicans must recognize their own responsibility for the loss of the 2006 election. We had help from the press, the 527’s, even death squads a world away, but most of the blame rests with us.
Republicans are responsible for our abandonment of principle, festering corruption, and divisiveness among the ranks. The Democrats moved right and the Republicans moved left. Republicans abandoned their commitment to fiscal integrity and small government. They got themselves involved in nation building (Iraq) and new entitlements (Medicare prescription), things to which they were formerly opposed.
When Republicans deserted their values they left them for Democrats to pick up. Colorado treasurer-elect Cary Kennedy, for example, made fiscal transparency a theme for her campaign even though she is no champion of thrift. She was after all the author of Amendment 23 which has had the most disastrous impact on the Colorado budget process. Nevertheless, she capitalized on the wastefulness of Republican politicians.
Democrats could point to massive spending increases and pork barrel pandering (of which they were equally guilty to be sure) and promised to balance the budget themselves. In the end, you can’t have your Bridge to Nowhere and keep your committee chairmanship.
Corruption further weakened the Republican Party in the public’s eyes. Thank you, Bob Ney, Tom Delay, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, Ted Haggard, and others for screwing up. Your transgressions brought down good people.
Corruption hurt and division sealed our fate. While the Democrat Party stood by conservative Democrats, Republicans fought among themselves. The National Republican Committee and various state parties chose sides in primaries. That’s a good move if you want to embitter people.
Here’s another: In Colorado Springs a conservative 527 leveled a spurious attack against Jeff Crank. His loss prompted a sour grapes refusal on the part of outgoing Congressman Joel Hefley to endorse Crank’s opponent, Doug Lamborn. This is not a monarchy; you don’t get to pick your successor. (That goes for you too, Senator Norma Anderson.)
And then there’s the lasting testiness about Referendum C. Let’s let that go - everybody. Oh yes, and Senator Steve Johnson please refrain from likening fellow Republican Tom Tancredo’s book to Hitler’s Mein Kampf when talking to the press.. That was inexcusable. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
I feel better. Now for the solution: While in the wilderness of minority status, Republicans must remember who they are – the champions of constitutional and free-market principles. Elections are about contrast – being a nice guy is not enough. Republicans need to articulate why conservative principles work and how they will have the courage to fight for them should they return to the majority.
Freedom is harder to sell than free stuff. The sanctity of life is harder to sell than the fallacious promise of immortality. Opportunity is a harder sell than security. Republicans, however, can meet the challenge. Over the next two years, Democrats will push for new entitlements, wage and price controls, stem cell research or other false policy prescriptions. Republicans must neither back down nor do a poor job articulating their oppositions.
We can rebuild the party around solid conservative principles. We can choose among ourselves leaders who can best articulate our vision. We can purge corruption and hypocrisy from our party. We can for heaven’s sake stop undermining fellow conservatives. We can return stronger.
Don’t forget: The election of Carter brought us Reagan four years later.