John Boehner offers the (Republican) party line in an oddly flat column in today’s Washington Post. Instead of offering specifics about how Boehner plans to change the GOP to rebuild voter trust — or even acknowledging the need to do so — Boehner instead insisted that voters got hoodwinked into supporting Democrats by Barack Obama’s talk of moderation:
While Republicans are disappointed by Tuesday’s results, we respect the American people’s decision and pledge to work with President-elect Barack Obama when it is in the best interest of our nation. Some Democrats and pundits may want to read Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of conservatism — a sign that Republicans should give Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue a free ride. I don’t see it that way, and neither should Republicans across the country.
The next four years are critical to the future of our families, our economy and our country, and we have a responsibility to rebuild our party by fighting for the principles of freedom, opportunity, security and individual liberty — the principles upon which the GOP was founded. Recommitting ourselves to these principles means two things: vigorously fighting a far-left agenda that is out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans and, more important, promoting superior Republican alternatives that prove that we offer a better vision for our country’s future.
America is still a center-right country. This election was neither a referendum in favor of the left’s approach to key issues nor a mandate for big government. Obama campaigned by masking liberal policies with moderate rhetoric to make his agenda more palatable to voters. Soon he will seek to advance these policies through a Congress that was purchased by liberal special interests such as unions, trial lawyers and radical environmentalists, and he’ll have a fight on his hands when he does so.
In record numbers, Americans voted on Tuesday for a skillful presidential nominee promising change, but “change” should not be confused with a license to raise taxes, drive up wasteful government spending, weaken our security, or give more power to Washington, Big Labor bosses and the trial bar. Americans did not vote for higher taxes to fund a redistribution of wealth; drastic cuts in funding for our troops; the end of secret ballots for workers participating in union elections; more costly obstacles to American energy production; or the imposition of government-run health care on employers and working families.
That’s an interesting argument, but it begs the question of what 63 Americans did vote for. All of these issues came up during the election. Republicans fought hard to make them relevant, and the Joe the Plumber certainly had everyone talking about redistributionism. In the end, people still voted for Barack Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate.
As it happens, I agree with Boehner, but the House Minority Leader misses the point. Democrats won yesterday because Republicans still haven’t rebuilt credibility with American voters after 2006. Boehner says that voters didn’t give Democrats a mandate for big government and more spending, but it’s not as though voters had much of a choice. Republicans gave them big government solutions and more spending, too, and at least the Democrats weren’t hypocrites about it.
Boehner says Republicans will continue to oppose big-government solutions and offer rational and superior alternatives on policy. That’s what we expect a loyal opposition to do, and of course Republicans around the nation want to see that. But Boehner and the GOP have to do better than that if they expect to compete in national elections. They have to convince voters that the days of K Street Projects are over, and that power won’t corrupt them like it did after the Contract with America. Voters have to know that Republicans won’t spend like drunken sailors if given the opportunity to lead.
Nothing in Boehner’s essay speaks to that at all. Instead, we hear the same, tired party line. Perhaps other voices should be speaking now.