Gin­grich sees hope for con­ser­va­tives in new Congress

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

Repub­li­cans,sud­denlyaminor­ity in both houses of Congress and led by an un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent, need to re­store their im­age as the party of small gov­ern­ment but at the same time avoid the im­age of blind ob­struc­tion­ism, party lead­ers and an­a­lysts said Nov. 9.

“We have to rec­og­nize that this wasade­feat­forRepub­li­cans,not­for con­ser­va­tives,” for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

There is hope to ad­vance a con­ser­va­tiveagenda,Mr.Gin­grich­said, if House Repub­li­cans can find al­lies among con­ser­va­tive Democrats.

“The bal­ance of power in the Hou­seis­now50-plus­blue-dog[con­ser­va­tive] Democrats,” he said.

Itwon’tbeeasy­forRepub­li­cansto re­cover from Tues­day’s de­feat, be­causethep­ar­ty­has“com­plete­ly­lost its brand as the party of lim­ited gov­ern­men­tand­lowspend­ing,”said­former Rep. Pat Toomey, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­va­tive Club for Growth.

Apollof15k­ey­con­gres­sion­ald­is­tricts­bytheClub­forGrowthshowed vot­ers now think “Democrats, not Repub­li­cans,arethep­ar­ty­of­s­maller gov­ern­ment,” Mr. Toomey said.

Bya66per­cent­to43per­cent­mar­gin,vot­er­s­think­the“GOPused­tobe the party of eco­nomic growth, fis­cal dis­ci­pline and lim­ited gov­ern­ment, but in re­cent years, too many Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton have be­come just like the big spenders that they used to op­pose,” the poll found.

“TheAmer­i­can­peo­ple­sen­tav­ery im­por­tant mes­sage to both par­ties and par­tic­u­larly to my party,” Repub­li­canNa­tion­alCom­mit­teeChair­man Ken Mehlman told re­porters Nov. 9 at a lun­cheon hosted by the Chris­tian Science Mon­i­tor. “I think we’ve got to lis­ten to that mes­sage. I think we’ve got to recom­mit our­selves to be­ing the party of con­ser­va­tive re­form.”

One alum­nus of the Gin­grich-led 1994 “Repub­li­can Revo­lu­tion” blamed Tues­day’s loss on the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“TheRepub­li­canParty[...]needs to rec­og­nize that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tionwaslarge­lyt­hearchi­tectofits de­feat, and that the party can no longer af­ford to play by yes­ter­day’s play­book,” said for­mer Rep. Bob Barr, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can.

Ac­cord­ing to the “old, time-worn play­book, a sit­ting Repub­li­can pres­i­dent is the head of the party and his team­can­pick­partylead­er­sand­dic­tate the agenda,” said Mr. Barr, who warned that “if the party fol­lows that­paradigm,itwill­slip­fur­ther­into mi­nor­ity sta­tus.”

Repub­li­cans“must­break­with­the White House,” chart their own course “with new, younger, bolder lead­er­ship” and pro­vide “a true al­ter­na­tive” to Democrats, Mr. Barr said.

How­ever, one House Repub­li­can said, the need to show leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments means that Repub­li­can­swill­have­to­co­op­er­ate­with­the new Demo­cratic lead­er­ship — even attherisko­falien­at­ing­con­ser­va­tives suchasColoradoRep.TomTan­credo and other op­po­nents of an im­mi­grant guest-worker pro­gram.

“There will have to be a guest­worker pro­gram of some kind and some­thingth­atis­no­ta­ful­lamnesty,” said Rep. Ralph M. Hall, Texas Repub­li­can. “That will prob­a­bly lose the Tan­credo fac­tion.”

Mr. Hall pre­dicted that Mr. Tan­credo “is a smart man and will find a way” to make such a com­pro­mise work.

But some warn that bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion can be a trap.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant that the GOP not al­low it­self to be drawn into the ‘can’t-we-all-get-along’ role that the lib­eral pun­dits and me­dia will­nowham­mertheGOPmi­nor­ity to play,” said elec­tions lawyer Cleta Mitchell,acon­ser­va­tiveRepub­li­can.

Shenot­edthatDemocratswonon Nov. 7 af­ter suc­cess­fully block­ing much of the Repub­li­can agenda. “The les­son from the Democrats may well be that get­ting noth­ing done is bet­ter than do­ing the things that your base op­poses,” Mrs. Mitchell said.

Uni­fy­ingRepub­li­canscould­prove a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge, given a re­cent out­burstoffin­ger-point­ing­with­inthe party. For­mer Rep. Dick Armey, Texas Repub­li­can, who has pub­licly blamed Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives for the party’s de­clin­ing for­tunes, on Nov. 9 wrote a col­umn in the Wall Street Jour­nal ex­co­ri­at­ing con­gres­sional lead­ers who he said had at­tempted “to rally their po­lit­i­cal base on wedge is­sues like il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and gay mar­riage,” and had thereby “alien­ated in­de­pen­dents.”

Mr.Armey’scrit­i­cism—and­sim­i­lar­com­ments­bySen.Ar­lenSpecter, Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can — an- geredFo­cu­son­theFam­i­lyChair­man James C. Dob­son.

Repub­li­cans this year failed to mo­ti­vate the “val­ues vot­ers” who helped Mr. Bush claim vic­tory in 2004, said Mr. Dob­son, who warned that some politi­cians are at­tempt­ing to make so­cial con­ser­va­tives the scape­goats for Repub­li­can fail­ures.

Mr.Dob­son­saidMr.Armey“can’t be­se­ri­ous”in­urg­ingRepub­li­cansto re­pu­di­ate Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives.

Amy Fa­gan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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