By By Steve Flowers
The American electorate blamed the great depression on the Republican Party. Herbert Hoover’s cavalier laissez faire attitude seared a burning resentment into the souls of a citizenry in which half of its brethren were out of work and standing in food lines for a bowl of soup. Out of the ashes of the worst financial disaster in U.S. history arose one Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a bold ambitious and audacious plan called the New Deal.
Out of desperation, the country embraced FDR and his New Deal. Evolving from the 1930’s Roosevelt reign the U.S. House and Senate became overwhelmingly Democratic. This New Deal coalition of congressional Democratic power became indelibly entrenched. A philosophy of big government permeated the New Deal Democratic majority. The concept of fiscal restraint and conservative federal spending went out the window. Big government was the rule of the day and the creation of boondoggle pet projects for long serving powerful members of congress became an omnipresent acceptance.
The Democrats would remain in control of both houses of congress for 60 years, but in 1994, the Republicans, led by a backbench bomb thrower reactionary from Georgia named Newt Gingrich, took control of the House of Representatives. They did it with a brilliantly created and crafted program called the Contract with America. The heart and soul of the Republican initiative was to cut federal spending and government waste. Pork projects would be cut out and good old fashioned frugality in government budgeting would replace spendthrift, deficit ridden budgets that left the U.S. haplessly in debt.
The Republicans promised to balance the federal budget. This message resonated with American voters and Gingrich led the Republicans out of the wilderness and bondage of being in the minority. Gingrich became Speaker and placed fiscal conservative Republicans on the Ways and Means and Appropriation Committees. This revival-like resurgence of fiscal responsibility bolstered the American spirit, but also further enhanced the Reagan Republican Revolution that began in the 1980’s.
However, within four years the temptation to reward their constituents and districts was too great for the Republicans to resist. They were hungry to bestow on their people the bountiful plums and fruits of the great money making machine in Washington D.C. Within six years the Republicans had forgotten their promise to the American people in the Contract with America and were at the trough to the same degree as their Democratic buddies.
After 12 years in control, the Republicans lost their majority in Congress to the Democrats two years ago. The Iraq war was the prevailing culprit of their 2006 demise. The Bush invasion of the Middle East was the impetus for the tsunami debacle for the Republicans in Congress. However, there was an underlying reason hidden in the exit poll tea leaves that has continued to be overlooked by the GOP. Their party was known as the party of fiscal conservatism. However, the facts decry this assertion. Bush inherited a balanced federal budget, but in less than seven years, with a Republican Congress in control six of those years, has managed to create the largest deficit in history.
There is a hardcore libertarian electorate that will not tolerate this spendthrift philosophy. These conservatives comprise about 5 percent of the electorate and they are the heart and soul of the Reagan Revolution. They are intelligent, informed, independent, and highly motivated. These voters supported Ron Paul in the Republican primary. You could see a consistent 5 percent vote in every state. It is steadfast and consistent. If they stay home, the GOP is in for a long night in November.
These fiscal conservatives should embrace John McCain. He has been more of a warrior for fiscal restraint than Ron Paul or any other Republican. McCain has been an ardent soldier against pork barrel spending. His commitment to fight these deficit causing projects has brought him to odds with his GOP colleagues. His renowned diligence has given him his maverick and independent status.
McCain reminds me a lot of the great legendary Republican Senator Everett Dirksen. The Illinois icon labored decades as minority leader of the Senate and denounced the Democratic grab-bag rituals of the 1960’s. One day after being told repeatedly by Democratic senators in pursuit of a pork barrel project for their state, well it just costs a billion dollars. Dirksen finally retorted in exasperation, “a billion here, and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.