Scandals and ideas: The path to power?
Alarmed by what they see as America slipping down the slippery slope into a government-controlled economy and society, conservatives are wondering how conservative ideas and principles can come back to power. The answer might be found in what happened in 1994 when Republicans became the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.
During the Democratís long-time majority rule, they created a bank inside the Capitol. House Members could draw checks on their House banking accounts far in excess of what they actually had on deposit. In effect, House members were getting free loans at taxpayer expense. The House Bank staff was in no hurry to press Members to cover their vastly overdrawn accounts. It was a scandal.
Another scandal, among many, was the House Post Office. Members and/or their staff could go to the House Post Office and use large campaign donor checks to buy small amounts of postage and then receive their change in large amounts of cash. It was a campaign contribution laundering operation via the House Post Office.
Enter C-SPAN and the ability of Republican House Members to be seen on C-SPAN television after the House had adjourned for the day under a procedure known as Special Orders. Under a Special Order, House Members, even Republicans, could make a speech from the well of the House after the regular House business was done.
Initially, the C-SPAN camera was just trained on the Member making his or her speech. When the Democrat leadership realized that it appeared that the Member making the speech was speaking while the House was still in session, the Democrats ordered the C-SPAN camera to pan around the chamber every few minutes so the viewers understood that the speech was being made post-adjournment and that the chamber was virtually empty.
Even so, the impact of C-SPAN televising Republicans making their case against the House Bank and the House Post Office was devastating to the Democrat leadership. Actually, the Republicans had a long laundry list of Democrat abuses which they would air each evening using an impressive array of their best speakers led by a relatively unknown back-bencher by the name of Newt Gingrich. Voters began to understand that reform wasnít going to happen until the Republicans gained the majority of House seats.
So, in 1994, the House Republicans were able to convert what would normally just be 435 congressional district elections into a national referendum on the corrupt behavior and practices of the Democrat leadership of the House. Lo and behold, even with Bill Clinton in the White House, enough Democrats were defeated in the district elections to put the Republicans in the majority for the first time in 40 years.
Eventually, that led to 12 years of Republican majorities in both houses. Unfortunately, after a few years, the Republicans began to adopt some of the same corrupt Democrat practices they had railed against in order to come back into power. By 2006, the voters had enough of the GOP. They put the Democrats back in control of Congress.
In 2010, the key to turning 435 district House races into another national referendum against the Democrats is not merely exposing the corrupt practices of Representatives Charles Rangel or Barney Frank or William J. Jefferson and others, it is also about having better and more appealing ideas.
Fortunately for conservatives, Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark R. Levin, is now atop the best-seller lists. Arguably, Liberty and Tyranny is the most readable primer on conservative thought to appear in years. Conservatives should run, not walk, to read a copy of this remarkable book. Levinís thoughts, along with the Democrat scandals, could lead to a GOP congressional takeover in 2010.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvardís JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2009. William Hamilton.