There are those who urge Republicans in Congress to sign up for a "revolution," a sort of guerrilla war. But against what? We have largely won the battle for philosophical supremacy. Except for Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, both elected under abnormal circumstances, and John Kennedy, who won by 118,000 votes out of nearly 70 million, no Democratic candidate for president has won a majority of the popular vote since Franklin Roosevelt. The administration is ours, and while it may not be perfect in all it does, it has reduced inflation, interest rates and the growth of the federal government; strengthened the national defense; restored pride in America; and driven even Democrats to renunciation of the liberal philosophies they have espoused for decades.
So what is the "revolution" about, and who is it against?
It is argued that "unity" rallies on the Capitol steps, highly publicized confrontations with the Democratic leadership and denunciations of all Republicans who are not a part of the "revolution" are designed to somehow create a ferment or "chaos," out of which will rise a Republican majority in the House.
There are three things wrong with that premise:
First, only a very cursory reading of history would lead one to believe that the strength of the Democratic Party arose out of the turmoil that surrounded it in the 1930s. You don't create a symphony by hiring a few percussionists and buglers to do their own thing and see what comes out of it.
Second, it assumes that there is a need to create a revolution. To a large extent, the early battles of the revolution have already been fought and won. The American people won't knowingly elect a liberal to the White House, and except in a few isolated jurisdictions, liberals get elected to legislative bodies avoiding philosophy and running on issues of local concern.
Third, the American voter resents attempts to persuade him or her to send rubber stamps to Congress. That's not how our system of checks and balances is supposed to work. Voters select the congressman who most closely reflects their own concerns about such matters as local unemployment or the dredging of a harbor. While the noise and fury of a strategy of confrontation may be cathartic for frustrated Republicans, it serves only a limited usefulness politically.
So, if not finger-wagging and camera-hogging, what is it Republicans ought to be doing?
First, we should be rallying behind the Republican leaders who turned a political party with its natural disagreements into a unified and cohesive legislative machine and won far more than might have been expected. Divisiveness -- Republicans attacking Republican leaders and the administration -- will only undo victories we've already won.
Second, we must move within the legislative system to do that which we have been elected to do: to help govern a society of more than 250 million people, and to do so responsibly. In my book, "Behind Enemy Lines," parts of which were written more than three years ago, I stated that the single greatest crime a society can commit is to rob a man of his future and that the job of government is to preserve potential. It is a theme Jack Kemp has stated brilliantly, and it forms a basis for making decisions about the legislative battles we will face (it is not because of fiscal theory that I oppose higher taxes, but out of an awareness that tax increases take income that might otherwise be used for investment, expansion, job creation).
But those of us who actually want to achieve a government predicated on these conservative viewpoints, those of us who want results and not just rhetoric, must work with the Democrats, with the Senate and with the White House to achieve as much as we can, as fast as we can, moving incrementally toward success, rather than attempting to burn down the Capitol and point the finger at Democrats, saying, "They started it."
Real revolutions are not won with bugles but with legislative achievement. The problem is, when one sits too long outside the decision- making process, one is likely to begin thinking of politics as "the science of complaining about what somebody else is doing." The failure of liberalism, however, does not excuse conservatives from dealing with the very real problems that exist in a society made up not of theories but of people.
Ultimately, we Republicans will make out greatest gains only when we again control the House, either by electing a majority of Republicans or by electing enough Republicans to form an effective coalition with conservative Democrats. But bombast and glitter won't get that done. The National Republican Congressional Committee, which has responsibility within the GOP for electing more Republicans to the House, has an awesome standard for political effectiveness. Under the chairmanship of Guy Vander Jagt, the committee has distributed more money to candidates, and provided candidates with more and better political and media assistance, than has ever been provided by any political organization in history.
What is needed now -- and what the NRCC is moving toward -- is a serious effort to pick up that necessary majority by concentrating on the individual political concerns of 435 different constituencies. That is a very different approach from the guerrilla activities urged by some, who think ferment and turmoil, through some magical proch.
We Republicans in the House have two tasks: to help govern this country in a way that will best serve the individual and collective aspirations of the American people, and to conduct ourselves in a way that will help increase the number of Republicans serving in the next Congress. Both are serious responsibilities and require not strident rhetoric and a strategy of confrontation, but sound thought and solid workmanship.