The former House Majority Leader looks at the issues debate in the presidential campaign.
If the 2008 presidential election were held today, Hillary Rodham Clinton would win.
Hillary’s minor stumbles in last week’s debate notwithstanding, she is simply running the most disciplined and effective campaign. She’s one of the most able politicians in America, and no one should underestimate her desire to be President and her calculating focus.
What you need to understand is that Hillary Clinton is, quite simply, craftier and more aggressive than the rest of the field. I know this firsthand, having battled with the Clinton Administration throughout the 1990’s while serving as a leader in Congress.
She’s only gotten tougher since then.
Early on, there were many fights, but one of the most important was over Hillary Clinton’s 1993 plan to expand government control of the health-care system. We were lucky to stop it, and we did so by standing our ground on the principle of putting patients ahead of bureaucracies. But now she’s back, and the health-care issue is a perfect example of the way she’s learned on the job and evolved her tactics.
Her latest health-care plan is more of the same stuff—greater federal control of our lives—but this time she’s presenting it in a way that is far more politically savvy. She leaves open questions of funding and enforcement, and is actively working to buy off the groups who opposed her plan in 1993.
Hillary Clinton and her agenda are not going to fade away. She is relentless and determined. Once she resolves a course of action in her mind, she is not going to be wishy-washy. The other candidates, and the rest of the world, will quickly learn that Hillary Clinton means business.
No doubt, Hillary Clinton has the Democrat primary all wrapped up. A couple of one-term senators are simply no match for the political machine she and her husband have built. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s not possible for a Republican to defeat her in the general election. But as things stand today, the GOP has a very real set of problems that are larger than any of the party’s candidates.
First and foremost, the Republican brand as effective stewards of the taxpayer dollar is in tatters, and the shredding doesn’t look to stop any time soon. Just yesterday, 138 House Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to override the president’s veto of a wasteful and pork-ridden Water Resources bill. That vote was a shameful display of personal politics over the national interest, and it contains the seeds of destruction of whatever conservative principles remain in the Republican party.
The callow accommodation to big-spending Democrats in Congress is one of the ways the Republican party will return itself to the days of serving as a compliant, permanent minority. Happy for table scraps, elected Republicans will simply abandon the ideas of their party in order to “get along”.
No wonder Americans prefer Democrats on the economy, taxes, and spending issues, according to recent polling data. When the choice is between Democrats, and the Democrat-lite ideas the GOP has become so comfortable offering, the Democrats will win every time.
The only way the Republican party will beat Hillary Clinton is to return to its limited-government roots. That’s the only way to rebuild a majority coalition.
For example, today religious conservatives are confused, disillusioned, and somewhat fractured. Too many of the current crop of self-appointed social conservative leaders have embraced an agenda that splits the GOP coalition. Big government ideas— runaway spending on “conservative” social programs, social engineering in the tax code, and greater government intervention into Americans’ personal lives—are the wrong path. This pandering has hurt the GOP in swing states, especially in the Mountain West and Great Lakes states.
To counter Hillary Clinton’s perfectly oiled political machine, Republicans need to return to their Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan roots. They need to present an alternative vision for America—a positive vision that limits government and trusts individuals and leaves families, churches, and businesses free to make their own decisions, and not have bureaucrats and politicians calling the shots.
Right now, the country is headed toward a date with Hillary Clinton, and big government is on the agenda. The only way to change that rendezvous is for candidates to offer a clear, principled, limited government alternative.