With everyone wondering how the Republicans can avoid disaster this fall, Mark Tapscott gives the GOP a healthy serving of free advice. Republican leadership admits that most of their problem lies in how they squandered their credibility over the Bush years, but they seem to feel that this acknowledgment is all that is necessary to correct the problem. Mark offers six concrete steps the GOP must take to prove that they have learned the lesson of 2006:

Two things: First, Rove says Republicans must “show contrasts” with Democrats and, second, they have to get “a plan” and “go out there and be talking about it.” Put another way, Rove is encouraging Boehner, Putnam et. al., to get out there and tell people Republicans are different from Democrats. That has been the Washington Republican Establishment’s conventional wisdom for decades. And it used to work fairly well.

But if Rove’s analysis is the essence of the GOP strategy between now and November, the Republican disaster come election day will be monumental. Why? Because no matter what happens on the presidential side of the campaign, the governing reality on the congressional side is that the congressional Democrat majority has the lowest Gallup Poll rating ever … BUT congressional Republicans are even less popular!

In other words, the GOP can talk till they are blue in the face between now and November about “contrasts” with the Democrats BUT NOBODY BELIEVES THEM ANYMORE. The day is long gone when Republicans can talk their way back into the majority.

The only thing that can save the GOP are concrete actions that may persuade sufficient numbers of voters that this time, the Republicans will actually do what they say they will do if they are returned to the majority in Congress. The GOP “brand” is so damaged that there is no guarantee that doing these things will get Republicans back in control of the levers of congressional power.

Those concrete actions are:

  • Terminate earmarks
  • Seek term limits
  • Start entitlement reform
  • No more taxes
  • Stop the spending
  • Enforce these pledges

Earmarks really are the key. The amount of money spent on earmarks comprises less than 1% of the federal budget (actually about 0.6%, at $18 billion this year), but it drives out-of-control expansion of the budget and debt in two key ways. The earmarks force local and state governments to remain dependent on federal funding, which distorts the balance of power between the different levels of government. They also act as bribes to gain votes for expensive legislation that would otherwise never pass Congress, packing the budgets with ever-increasing burdens and forcing the federal government to take on more authority to execute them.

Term limits don’t impress me. In California, they have created a truly impressive lobbyist class, but other than that no real reform. Limits would have the salutary effect of throwing the current entrenched ruling clique out of Capitol Hill, but afterwards the institutional continuity would flow to unelected bureaucrats and lobbyists. However, it may at least be worth the experiment, as that doesn’t sound all that different than what we have already.

Bruce Kesler notes that the Republicans have already started talking along the same lines as Mark’s advice. Talking won’t cut it, though. If the Republicans want to prove their seriousness about reform and change, they have to start by taking some political risks, such as ending earmarks and voting against giveaways like the atrocious farm bill Congress just passed. Instead, they offer a defense of Capitol Hill Crack:

Some of the ideas from the conservatives have been circulating for months, including an immediate moratorium on seeking money for the pet home-state projects known as earmarks. But other Republicans have rejected that idea, arguing it is a chief responsibility of representatives to win federal aid for local initiatives.

No, the chief responsibility for Representatives is to protect and defend the Constitution and to take care of the national interest. Local and state governments exist to look out for their own interests, and if the federal government would get out of the wealth-redistribution business, local communities could spend their own money on the priorities set by the communities themselves.

Republicans used to know this. Until they prove that they’ve remembered it, they will spend a long time in the minority.