When every single Republican in the House voted against President Barack Obama's $800 billion stimulus package last week, many conservatives cheered, while also saying that it was "too little too late."
Perhaps. But I say better late than never. This is a perfect example of how important it has been for Republicans to lose the election.
Imagine this week, if President John McCain spent time meeting with leaders of both parties, business execs, and economists and worked overtime to build a bipartisan consensus on his own stimulus package. Given his theatrics during the election — like when he suspended his campaign to meet with Democrats and Republicans to fix the economy — this scenario is not hard to imagine. If he was president today, McCain the bipartisan bridge-builder would likely be presenting his own billion dollar economic bridge-to-nowhere, much like Obama.
Unlike Obama, McCain would have received significant Republican support. Even though members of the GOP disagreed with former President George W. Bush's expansion of the government, Congress continued to write endless blank checks, increasing the national debt astronomically. I don't remember hearing as much criticism from mainstream conservatives in print, TV, or radio about reckless spending under Bush as I do now under Obama. If McCain was president, it's safe to say House Republicans would not be as unified in opposing a stimulus package.
But House Republicans have put up a united front when it comes to Obama's stimulus plan. Writes conservative columnist Robert Stacy McCain, "Man, if all it took to get Republicans to vote conservative was to elect a Democratic president, this is a change I can believe in." Indeed. Yesterday's "we must support the president" big government economics is rightfully seen today as "socialism." And whether out of principle or partisanship, it's refreshing to see Republicans standing on conservative principle once again.
Watching a television news story about Obama's stimulus package, my girlfriend, who not only voted for Obama but has the bumper sticker to prove it, said to me, "I'm not an economist, but doesn't spending money you don't have make the situation worse? Doesn't it just devalue the dollar even more?" I'm not an economist either, but I did manage to pass basic math in high school. And unless the rules of math have changed recently, my girlfriend is absolutely right.
The larger financial crisis we face in the years to come is the house of cards we call our economy, in which we constantly inject more paper money into an already devalued and weak system, much the same way a heroin addict shoots up to temporarily ease his pain. The addict can keep shooting up, and it will continue to make him feel better in small increments, but unless he goes cold turkey and endures the hardships of withdrawal, he will die. So-called "bailouts" or "stimulus packages," whether served up by Republicans or Democrats, are temporary stop-gap measures, both emblematic and symptomatic, that will eventually lead to complete financial collapse. You can't spend what you don't have.
The Republicans currently do not have the numbers to stop this stimulus package and other examples of reckless spending yet to come. But with no liberal Republican president to please and a liberal Democratic president to oppose, the GOP might become useful to conservatives again.
However, Republicans could also be distracted by partisanship.
Their obsession with Bill Clinton in the 1990s was more about being against a Democrat than about standing for conservative principles.
My biggest problems with Clinton remain his open borders policy, his reckless spending, and his foreign intervention in the Balkans, Somalia, and Haiti. Most conservatives still obsess over Monica Lewinsky.
As with Clinton, conservatism cannot simply mean being against Obama, and intelligent folks on the right would do well to leave such petty nonsense to the unintentionally comedic Sean Hannity and the intentionally-comedic Stephen Colbert.
Maybe, after four or eight years of Obama, a realigned, more conservative and mature Republican Party will be better positioned to rein in an economy and country constantly teetering on the edge of the abyss.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.