Let's face it: The spenders won this year

There has to be a better way. Tea party expectations of major reforms were always unrealistic with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House. But that’s no reason that Republicans in Congress can’t use their power to fight for their priorities.

They need to draw contrasts with Democrats on taxes, spending, regulation and reform that at least educate the public about what’s at stake. Pick some programs and make them budget-cutting showcases. Use the savings to finance tax cuts that promote growth. Or simply vote for tax reform whether or not it is “revenue neutral” under Congress’s silly budget rules. Follow votes in the House by bringing pro-growth bills to the Senate and forcing Democrats to vote up or down, as they did with the Keystone XL pipeline.

GOP Congressional leaders will be tempted to play it safe and wait for their Presidential nominee. And inevitably the Presidential race will dominate public debate as 2012 unfolds. But before it does, Republicans need to do far more to show their own supporters and independent voters that they are the party of reform and change in Washington. If voters want spending as usual, they’ll elect Democrats.