Forget the Democrats. Right now, many Republicans see themselves as their own worst enemies and their anger at each other may be the catalyst that brings down GOP domination in Congress.
Reports Carolyn Lochhead of The San Francisco Chronicle:
Former Rep. Mark Foley’s lewd behavior with teenage pages dropped like a match in a dry forest of conservative anger at Republicans.
More than the scandal itself, the anger is what could topple the House leadership and end 12 years of Republican control of the House.
For many conservatives, Republicans have assumed a startling resemblance to the Democrats they ousted from a 40-year reign in 1994.
“They have become that which they beheld,” said Richard Viguerie, the father of conservative grassroots activism. “In the early 1990s, they talked about a culture of corruption by the Democrats and how they were abusing their power. Lo and behold, that seems to be what the Republicans have engaged in.”
House Republicans are a long way from the heady days of 1994, when the Republican revolution began with a 54-seat landslide after fiery backbencher Newt Gingrich of Georgia and his conservative allies issued the Contract With America, “aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government,” starting with fiscal responsibility and reform of the House itself.
Foley’s escapades fuel a long-simmering frustration that Republicans have betrayed their principles. The latest issue of Washington Monthly ran essays from seven lifelong Republicans arguing _ before the Foley scandal broke _ that it might be better if Republicans lost the House.
Republicans may be divided over the war in Iraq, civil liberties, immigration and the struggle between religious and economic conservatives. But one thing that unifies party members of all persuasions is a profound dismay at what they see as profligate spending by Congress under President Bush.
Fighting big government has been a GOP lodestar since Barry Goldwater was nominated for the presidency in 1964. It animated Ronald Reagan’s presidency, helped deny George H.W. Bush a second term when he violated his “read-my-lips” no-new-tax pledge, and became the defining battle of the Gingrich revolution in 1994, leading to a government shutdown in a face-off with Democratic President Bill Clinton.
When the younger Bush was elected in 2000, Republicans gained unified control of the White House, the House and, for most of the last six years, the Senate.
Yet what majority control produced was lavish farm subsidies; the Medicare drug bill, which is the biggest entitlement expansion since the Great Society; enormous funding increases for Cabinet departments Republicans once pledged to eliminate; highway bills larded with bridges to nowhere, and a galaxy of special spending earmarks for individual lawmakers’ pet projects _ along with an invasion of Iraq.
“Starting with George W. Bush, it’s been all downhill,” said William Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and a former Reagan official. “The growth of federal spending has been the highest since Lyndon Johnson, this is the first Republican war in over a century in which the ground combat lasted more than a few days, we’ve had an erosion of our civil liberties … it’s really a very sad story.”