Annapolis Institute Overview


Election verdict: Less is better

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, April 16, 1999

Original publication date April 16th, 1999.
The tsunami we predicted in this column on Oct. 12 — Republican control of Congress for the first time in 40 years — happened on Nov. 8.

However, the majority that carried the election is not, in my judgment, a New Republican Majority — as many Republicans are saving. Rather, it’s a New American Majority — and Republicans are its temporary custodians.

Republican candidates were supported because Republican words and deeds were almost totally aligned with the views of the New American Majority: that government is too big, too costly, too intrusive and too out of control.

So, the Republicans will be custodians of the hopes and dreams of the New American Majority as long as they deliver. If Republicans can transform the revolution at the polls into a revolution in policy, they can turn the American Majority into a Republican Majority. But that hasn’t happened yet, and Republican gloaters who think it has are whistling Dixie.

The Newt Gingrich-inspired Contract with America and Republican actions in Congress the last two years that appealed to the new majority — especially those that trimmed spending, blocked a federal takeover of the health care industry and resisted New Age laws and regulations — have one common theme: the need to relimit government. That means Republicans must achieve what I call “Six R’s”:

  • Refocus government, which requires concentrating the activities of the federal government on national problems that require national solutions — defense, commerce, international trade and other functions enumerated in Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution, functions that are truly essential to the wealth and well-being of the nation.
  • Restrain taxes and spending, which requires Congress to say “no” to increases in taxes and spending and to stop unfunded mandates that force state and local governments to increase spending.
  • Reform the process of government by voting on constitutional amendments to enable a line-item veto for the president, a balanced budget and term limits.
  • Restore the spirit of the 10th Amendment by getting the federal government out of people’s lives and restoring power to the states and to the people. The federal government must withdraw from the business of regulating outboard motors, lawnmowers and firearms in the schoolyard. These are matters better left to states. which are granted the police powers by the Constitution.
  • Rebalance the public-private mix by shrinking what political scientist Harold Lasswell called the “public order” (government in all its manifestations) and expanding the “civic order” (individuals, families and voluntary civic institutions of the kind de Tocqueville found so compelling). Reason: to give society’s “little platoons” of ordinary people a chance to win the battles lost by the big battalions of the welfare state.
  • Relocate most federal domestic agencies to America’s vast hinterland, eliminating entire departments (e.g., HIJD Education) and agencies that are not needed, and realigning and consolidating the functions of those that remain.

It’s a large agenda. But if Republicans can deliver on some and get a start on others they have a good chance of creating a New Republican Majority that can last for a long time.

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