by Rod D. Martin
June 2, 2006

The talk of a Republican apocalypse this fall is likely premature, but very well earned. A White House that can’t seem to communicate its way out of a paper bag surely can’t lead. A Senate which forgets it was elected to cut spending, reduce waste and change Washington should expect to be sent home. This is just reality.

But there’s more to this story than meets most eyes. There’s also a real chance for redemption.

Republicans in 2004 won an historic victory, on the wave of an overwhelming coalition of fiscal, defense and social conservatives representing a large majority of all Americans. Record turn-out and organization of Evangelical Christians was key, as this group historically has not voted anywhere near its potential strength.

A hostile, global press decried their involvement, but these Christians are no fire-breathing mullahs: they are America’s core, regular folks who go to work, raise families, and pursue the American dream. They mostly want government to get out of their way, stop putting burdens on faith, stop kowtowing to the “Blame America First” crowd, and stop selling out traditional values.

This appalls the glitterati, but it’s hardly a radical agenda. Indeed, if 2004 is any indication, for most Americans it’s just common sense.

But that “most” thing is a two-edged sword: you win by pleasing it, you betray it — or let it think you’ve betrayed it — to your doom.

Republicans have represented their broad coalition’s values better than one might think.

  • The President took America out of the ABM Treaty — something even Ronald Reagan would not do — and deployed a real missile defense.
  • Congress cut the capital gains and dividends taxes — and overcame strong opposition to extending those cuts just last month — sparking a supply-side, middle class-investment boom and the lowest unemployment rates in three decades.
  • President Bush campaigned and fought for a new, improved, free market Social Security — one which would have increased the average Social Security check by thousands of dollars per month while exploding U.S. economic growth rates to East Asian levels.
  • The President actually passed his free market Health Savings Account plan — giving every American access to tax-exempt, low cost, fully portable health insurance — which is slowly but surely transforming U.S. health care.
  • A Republican Justice Department re-recognized the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep and bear arms, something no Administration has done for forty years.
  • The President also appointed slews of outstanding judges to the bench, including two tremendous Supreme Court justices, solid on economic, constitutional and social issues as well.
  • And don’t forget the obvious: the President has kept al Qaeda on the run, removed the Taliban from power, locked Saddam in a cage, encouraged democratic, free market revolutions from Ukraine to Lebanon, and incorporated the entire Libyan nuclear program into the Oak Ridge museum collection. And oh by the way, he is now presiding over one of the strongest economic booms on record, despite the business disaster following 9/11 and the pre-existing Clinton recession.

Not one of these things would have happened if Democrats had had their way.

Yet conservatives remain rightly annoyed. They don’t remember this astonishing laundry list of achievement, because no one’s bothered to remind them. At the same time, Congress’s spending binge and the complete failure of border security are thoroughly inexcusable. And even if they weren’t, these are the things conservatives hear about, all day every day.

We do stand at a crossroads. The Republican Party in power is far from perfect, but adding a few more conservative Senators — and a few more Tony Snows — would fix that. An angry conservative base sitting home will hand Congress to the Democrats, undoing all which has been achieved and taking us starkly the wrong direction.

Republicans can stave off disaster if they show — not just say — they’re for real. Passing the tax cut extensions was vital. Next week they have two chances to shine (or bomb): the Federal Marriage Protection Amendment vote this Wednesday, and permanent Death Tax repeal on Thursday. Quickly confirming the President’s judges is vital too, and vital to talk about, a lot. Standing strong — win or lose (but it needs to be win) — will show conservatives who they are.

The White House usually gets this. House Republicans almost always do. But a Republican Senate is busily throwing everything away. This coming week, it better stop the hemorrhaging, or the patient may very well die.