A GOP party leader for the future

posted at 1:30 pm on November 5, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Jeff Flake has long been a voice in the Republican wilderness, opposing profligate spending and big-government “conservatism”. Now that the entire GOP has been put into the wilderness, Flake takes to the pages of the Washington Post for a well-deserved round of I Told You So. More to the point, Flake draws the map for Republicans to return from their largely self-imposed exile from power:

Much of the backroom maneuvering and media speculation in the coming weeks will focus on identifying new standard-bearers for the party. This is important, and after a second straight drubbing, the House Republican leadership should be replaced. But the far more critical task is determining what standard these new leaders will bear.

I suggest that we return to first principles. At the top of that list has to be a recommitment to limited government. After eight years of profligate spending and soaring deficits, voters can be forgiven for not knowing that limited government has long been the first article of faith for Republicans.

Of course, it’s not the level of spending that gets the most attention; it’s the manner in which the spending is allocated. The proliferation of earmarks is largely a product of the Gingrich-DeLay years, and it’s no surprise that some of the most ardent practitioners were earmarked by the voters for retirement yesterday. Few Americans will take seriously Republican speeches on limited government if we Republicans can’t wean ourselves from this insidious practice. But if we can go clean, it will offer a stark contrast to the Democrats, who, after two years in training, already have their own earmark favor factory running at full tilt.

Second, we need to recommit to our belief in economic freedom. Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” may be on the discount rack this year, but the free market is still the most efficient means to allocate capital and human resources in an economy, and Americans know it. Now that we’ve inserted government deeply into the private sector by bailing out banks and businesses, the temptation will be for government to overstay its welcome and force the distribution of resources to serve political ends. Substituting political for economic incentives is not the recipe for economic recovery.

The failure of the Republicans did not start with the George Bush presidency, and Flake nails this point.  It started with Congressional leadership, which took a wrong turn almost immediately after gaining majorities in both chambers.  Instead of committing to limited government and sacrificing some measure of power for substantial change in the direction of the federal government, the GOP leadership launched the K Street Project and allied itself with the very lobbyists that feast off of bloated government.

While Clinton was President, the Republican Congress could still talk “limited government” while playing footsie with lobbyists by serving up the pork.  Once Bush and his “compassionate conservatism” took over the White House, these Republican leaders showed themselves as nothing more than big-government enablers with only a different set of winners to pick among lobbyists.  They ceased being anything other than Democrats with Different Friends.   Small wonder that no one buys the “limited government” argument any longer.

Maybe after losing two successive electoral cycles, people will finally start listening to Flake.  He has exactly the right prescription for the affliction Republicans have given themselves — a focus on fiscal conservatism and limited government, and an adamant opposition to spoils politics.  If the GOP is to ever regain credibility with voters as a positive force for real change, then they have to show commitment to principle over power, a fatal failure of the last Republican majority.

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing where the future of conservatism lies.  I’d argue that Jeff Flake represents the best of it and should be considered one of the visionaries of the movement, if we’d just get more Republicans in office to listen to him.


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Comments

Clearly Nelsonknows…….Gov. Palin was being elected by the majority of the conservative Votes?-then Sen. McCain!. I think this because,I voted for Gov. Palin. She is now part of the conservatives party……..who I feel confident that Her as well as the rest of party! will help guide us out of the wilderness.
Go out and Stand your ground!!!!!
2010 is around the corner…clean up your house and the flow of freedom rings through!!!

hawkman on November 5, 2008 at 5:03 PM

Truly, the voters simply decided that if Republicans were going to act like Democrats they might as well elect the real thing.

pgrossjr on November 5, 2008 at 6:11 PM

The real story….

Democrats managed to get the children of all ages to vote for once.

Hopeychangey. Feel good because “you care”, but get your $500 “tax cut”. Punish Bush because he didn’t give you stuff. Get back at the man. Be like juvenile delinquents and be proud of it. Talk big. Stick it to the adults.

notagool on November 5, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Sarah Palin is the best chance for conservatives in 2012. Get behind her – if she is willing to run again. She is a real person. Innoculate her against the attacks like they did with Big Zero. She has been through the ringer and got nothing but better. It was tough carrying Mac plus coming up to speed on a whole new set of stuff. Stuff that she knew but not in detail and would not finesse around, or lie through, like punchy Biden.

Gandalf on November 5, 2008 at 6:55 PM

Jeff Flake, Michale Steele, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal: the future of the Conservative Republican Party. JC Watts should come out of ‘retirement’ as well.

jerseyman on November 5, 2008 at 1:38 PM

I’m Proud Texan, and I approve this message.

Proud Texan on November 5, 2008 at 7:08 PM

Don’t forget Marsha Blackburn either.

grits on November 5, 2008 at 7:35 PM

In the debates, when McCain had the chance to set Obama straight on de-regulation, he instead launched an attack on Wall Street greed. Sarah did the same in her debate. The TV audience didn’t get to hear anything about the part Obama/ACORN played in the housing crash. Truth prevails, and we have to tell it.

fenryys on November 5, 2008 at 7:54 PM

Jeff Flake has long been a voice in the Republican wilderness, opposing profligate spending and big-government “conservatism”.

yep. i live in his district. we would like to keep him around for quite a while longer …

AZ_Redneck on November 5, 2008 at 8:37 PM

Adam Smith was for economic regulation. The GOP is against it.

Dude, the election is over, and your guy won. You can stop with the lies now.

xblade on November 5, 2008 at 9:05 PM

Sarah Palin is the best chance for conservatives in 2012. Get behind her – if she is willing to run again.

I like Palin, but if we can’t do better than her in 2012, time to start planning for 2016.

xblade on November 5, 2008 at 9:06 PM

Yessss! Flake is my congressman, & he’s great.
He told my daughter years ago–when she was five–that she would be the first female Pres.

jgapinoy on November 5, 2008 at 9:16 PM

…And for those who accusded me of opposing Mitt because of his Mormonism, I’s eagerly campaign for Mormon Flake.

jgapinoy on November 5, 2008 at 9:18 PM

accusded accused

jgapinoy on November 5, 2008 at 9:19 PM

I’s I’d
Duhhhh

jgapinoy on November 5, 2008 at 9:21 PM

ED, In my own personal concession rant last night I compared democrats and republicans to coke and pepsi. You’ve articulated that here in a manner my inebriation wouldn’t allow. Very good post

OneEyedJack on November 5, 2008 at 10:46 PM

Jeff Flake is a Castro Luvin Beyotch. If your not anti-communist ya nuttin.

jones on November 6, 2008 at 12:37 AM