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Republicans: time to make some choices

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If the polls don’t change in the next two weeks, the Republicans need to start thinking about what type of opposition party they will be. The Democrats will control the presidency and both houses of Congress with huge majorities, and a word of note to Republicans: they’ll be in a maniacally activist mood.

For the Republicans in Congress, there are really two models to choose from. They can pattern themselves after the “go along, get along” Republicans in Congress that mostly played nicely with the Democrats in order to get some pork projects here and there. They didn’t ruffle too many feathers, got some crumbs thrown there way on occasion, and were part of a 40 year Republican minority in Congress.

Or they can look to more recent history, the class of 1993. That was the year Newt Gingrich took over the party, and the Republicans in Congress became an activist bunch of instigators – bomb throwers some would say – to President Clinton’s agenda.

The next Congress will probably have similar ratios of Democrats and Republicans as the ’93 Congress – that is to say, the Democrats will rule the roost with impunity.

But as far as I can tell, this Republican gang lacks two essential ingredients from the ’93 crowd: Newt Gingrich and an agenda.

I’m a political junkie, and I’m not sure I can pick a Republican House member out of a lineup (save Vito Fossela of course). Their leadership has been somewhere between abysmal and non-existent, and I don’t see much of a bench. For their sake, they had better find a visionary front man in a hurry, or they’re going to be a silent minority for a long time.

As for the agenda, the ’93 Congress had the Contract with America, which essentially took 50 years of conservative and libertarian ideology and codified it on a sheet of paper. It neatly and powerfully summarized everything Conservatives believed, and worked brilliantly as a political document in the midterm elections of 1994.

Flash forward to 2008, and the conservative movement is in shambles. Part of President Bush’s ruinous legacy will be his gutting of conservative philosophy in pursuit of his own misguided and myopic agenda. The net result: we’re all big government conservatives now.

It’s not just that conservatives are bereft of ideas — parties and movements run dry on ideas every now and again. It’s that they’re confused by ideas. They no longer know which are the right ideas; which are their ideas; which ideas represent conservative philosophy. President Bush has effectively mated conservative philosophy with virulent social engineering to create something that nobody likes but that conservatives now own.

They need to shed Bush’s legacy like a snake sheds its skin and grow a new one.  In a hurry.  With a Gingrich and an agenda nearby.

www.nickragone.com