Ethics, First Step To A Gop Comeback

February 3rd, 2009 at 12:00 pm | 13 Comments |

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The GOP has lost its old stronghold of New England, health while poaching the Democrats’ Dixie redoubt.  This is called trading up.  New England is in demographic collapse and economic decline and does not set the National tone.  There is one aspect of old New England Republicanism that could revive the GOP outside New England.  That is “civil rectitude.”  The conviction that the public fisc is not an endless trough for the connected.  Calvin Coolidge of Vermont embodied this kind of Republican.

In large northern states such as New York, Illinois, Ohio, the collapse of the GOP has not come about because of its defense of traditional marriage, the unborn or opposition to other liberal social causes.  In each of these states the Republicans became associated with the spending and corruption of the old style Democratic machines.  This demoralized its base and killed off a chief selling point to middle of the road voters of the Republican brand.

In New York, the Republican Party was built on solid majorities in Upstate, and overwhelming majorities in Long Island, while holding about 40% of the New York City vote.  Unfortunately, during the Pataki years the “Long Island Machine”, spent money like Democrats.  The entire reputation of fiscal sanity and clean government that had served the party since Teddy Roosevelt’s time was destroyed by a Republican Party that bankrupted townships and could not stop spending.  It did not help that the ethical environment accompanying this orgy of spending had plenty of Republican perpetrators.  The spending in Albany by Governor Pataki and the Republican Senate reinforced this image and eliminated a chief distinction from the Democrats.

In Ohio, the great Taft name, synonymous with the GOP, was destroyed by petty larceny and runaway spending.  Governor Taft, scion of a great house, and heir to rectitude and frugal government squandered that reputation.  He took a plea deal on a misdemeanor and the entire Republican Party could not put Ohio’s fiscal house in order.

In Illinois, the home of Abraham Lincoln, and, not incidentally, Phyliss Schlafly and Henry Hyde, Republican electoral fortunes were not destroyed by rigid adherence to social conservatism.  Its Governor went to jail and its representatives, again, became the party of the spending lobby in Springfield.

New York, Ohio, and Illinois, by themselves are more important demographically and electorally than New England.  Their loss to the Party is not due to adherence to traditional values.  It is due to the failure of belief that Republicans can be trusted to guard the public fisc and keep their hands out of the till.  The good-government Republicans have had success in these places and can do so again.  It is no accident that in a bad year for Republicans Governor Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative and good government Republican won in Indiana while its electoral votes went to Obama.

Big spending and indifference to petty corruption brought down Governor Ryan of Illinois, Governor Taft of Ohio, and, indeed Governor Rowland of Connecticut. Fortunately, the Republican primary voter, unlike his Democratic counterpart has shown a willingness to support challenges to corrupt law makers.  Ted Stevens, a man synonymous with Alaskan statehood was nearly knocked off by a Sarah Palin backed challenger.  Republicans have shown themselves more capable of cleaning their own house than the Democrats are.  They must institutionalize this instinct.

The party of big government is also going to be the party of graft and back scratching.  If the Republicans fight that culture they will find electoral successes in places now barred to them, primarily in the mid-West, but also New England.  Unlike calls to abandon the base on social issues, or to back repeal of the immigration laws, a clean, fiscally sound Republican Party does not have to jettison any of its current constituencies.  It is a pure case of addition by addition.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • Bulldoglover100

    Both parties have shown OVERWHELMING ability to abuse the system and a total lack of ethics but I do not feel that is the main reason we are losing elections. We are not listening to the majority of the American people regarding what they expect from the Goverment.
    Health Care? They want it.
    A stable economy? They want it.
    War? They DON’T want it and we gave it to them..poorly I might add.
    Equal pay for women? We fought it using the old retoric.
    Education? Is so poor in this country and so many of our party has used it as a $$$$ issue that the majority of the public think we no longer care about our children.
    Abortion? That’s one we might win someday.
    Ethics? Both parties have been so bad for so long I really thing that issue has fallen to the wayside.
    Our party has put this country so far in the hole the last 8 years that now our griping about what the Dems might do? Makes us look foolish.

  • HollywoodBill

    Of course ethics matter. Who wants crooked politicians? But, as usual, the author is disenguous by refusing to put all the issues on the table and open for discussion and is choosing to ignore some inconvenient electoral events in the region. Sure Taft corrupted Ohio but Ken Blackwell the evangelical darling of Dobson and Perkins lost by a stunning 24 point margin. The incumbent DeWine lost his senatorial bid in the same year by 12 points. And why ignore Pennyslvania? Santorum lost by 18 points the same year. In order for the GOP to start winning national elections, ALL issues must be on the table and open for discussion. No free passes are being given out this time. Ethics should only the beginning.

  • billslayer

    I think that it’s gotta start with congress. No earmarks is not sufficient. It’s got to be a zero deficit spending rule for lawmakers with an R in front of their name. It’s gotta be part of the platform, not just as a principle–but as a rule.
    I’m sorry if I sound off in the head, but the “conservative” party didnt get to where it is by acting in any sort of conservative manner!

  • Bulldoglover100

    Hollywood Bill – Great points.
    BUT we still need to deal with the economy right now and if we don’t? Then nothing matters because there will not be any issues that take precedence over being able to feed our families.

  • billslayer

    Ive read hundreds of articles, op-eds, blogs, heck…I’ve read the back of the shampoo bottle. So far I haven’t found any definitive, unequivocal evidence that the sky will fall sans “stimulus.” I have however taken a look at the deficit numbers. The bottom line, we are in a recession, which will end at some point, and stimulus MAY OR MAY NOT bring that end date closer to us in the future. I’m not saying definitely dont do stimulus, but this whole thing seems more than a bit contrived–too contrived to be taken on faith.

  • Bulldoglover100

    Billslayer….you can bet your livelihood on that when ALL economist disagree with you.

  • Bulldoglover100

    BUT don’t bet mine! But hey perhaps your great brain that reads shampoo bottles can tell us what happened to all those companies that have gone bust? Bad management? and the rate the unemployment is rising to? levels not seen since the 1920′s but hey chicken little…perhaps your right and the sky isn’t falling.
    Thank God people like you? are not in charge.

  • JJWFromME

    The vast differences between New England Republicans and the rest of the GOP are obvious when you listen to people like Lincoln Chafee: http://www.radioopensource.org/chafee-chides-obama-on-gaza-brown-bag-iv/
    And here’s Margaret Chase Smith standing up to Joseph McCarthy back in the day: “The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

    As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation — in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

    Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself — and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

    …Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

    Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.

    I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.
    http://www.mcslibrary.org/program/library/declaration.htm

  • sinz54

    The author says: “It is no accident that in a bad year for Republicans Governor Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative and good government Republican won in Indiana” Wow! That’s supposed to be an achievement for the GOP??? Indiana was traditionally a strong GOP state; the fact that a Republican won the Governorship is to be expected. The fact that Obama, a liberal urban (and urbane) Democrat, won the state’s electoral votes was NOT expected, and tells you something about how the voters there are thinking. McCain’s honor was one of his strongest suits. But he lost the election badly anyway.

  • sinz54

    I agree with Bulldoglover100 on at least one thing: The GOP needs to stop talking for a little bit, and start doing some listening to the public. Republican politicians (and their unofficial spokesman, Limbaugh) have forgotten that the talking-points they are currently spouting are the exact same ones that lost them the November election. The election may be over, but the GOP should keep on commissioning private polls and focus groups to find out what the public expects from both political parties.

  • cronus

    I imagine most Republicans share this concern over ethics and the lack of fiscal responsibility. However claiming that better adherence to ethics and fiscal discipline alone will suddenly sweep Republicans back into power in regions where if they adhered to strict party positions they would be disqualified from seriously competing for higher office I think is wishful thinking. The reality is the power of wielded by certain parts of our supposed party “coalition” has become debilitating to the Republican brand (stem cell research for example). Our country has a host of complicated problems and as of now the party seems to only offer “tax cuts” and “God” as the answer. I certainly favor lower taxes and I’m not trying to denigrate anyone’s faith, but it would be nice if we could govern with a slightly more realistic attitude and some actual ideas which have some relevance to the reality of our economic situation and issues where the majority of Americans, and particularly those regions highlighted in this post, don’t agree with the party’s current stance.

  • realconservativ

    John – I agree with you on the importance of ethics, but I would like to point out two things: 1) New England hasn’t been a GOP stronghold since the days of Henry Cabot Lodge (1950s). Barry Goldwater make a crack about “cutting it off and letting it float out to sea” in 1964. 2) Sarah Palin’s Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell almost upset Congressman Don Young in the 2008 GOP primary; NOT Ted Stevens.

  • erasmuse

    Good post. It’s tough to rebuild a soiled reputation, though. It’s easy to change policies and tell voters about that, or even to recruit better candidates. A reputation for rectitude, though, can only be built over time. That’s one reason Blackwell did badly in Ohio– he was an Ohio Republican, and whatever his policies or personality might be, being an Ohio Republican was to be an associate of some sleazy people.

    This loss of reputation is worst for moderate Republicans, actually, The Rockefeller Republican was essentially a Democrat who wouldn’t steal and who knew how to run a business. If Republicans are no more honest than Democrats, and have the same policies, they lose.