Just like that the fix was in....Republicans traded away their majority status for a deal that some will cheer because three of President Bush's appeals court nominees will be confirmed instead of stonewalled. Granted, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor are the three most conservative of the nominees and some conservatives will applaud this deal that greases the skids for their confirmation.
But at what price? Are the Democrats happy now and will they agree to cool down the rehetoric against Republicans? Will they stop comparing conservative Republicans to the Taliban or Al Quaida? Apparently not....Senate minority leader Harry Reid, upon learning of the deal said, "We have sent President George Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the radical right of the Republican party an undeniable message...the abuse of power will not be tolerated." How about that fellow conservatives? Did you know you are now part of the radical right who would dare to suggest that while our party is in the majority we would like to see a conservative agenda passed? Just exactly what have the grass roots conservatives been working for over the last 25 years? We worked, we made phone calls, we urged people to vote, we prayed, we wrote editorials, we went to the polls and for what? So a group of seven Republicans could join the Democrats in lecturing us about how radical we are.
In 1980, I campaigned for the election of Ronald Reagan. It was my first foray into the political world. I was both idealistic and inspired by the bold leadership of this actor turned politican. I throught our ship had finally come in when Reagan won but we were told then not to be too excited because we still needed to win Congress. So, the grassroots workers went back to work and we began to transform the Republican Party into a truly conservative political party. We changed the party platform moving more to the right. We saw Reagan re-elected in a landslide and we were told not to be too excited because we still needed the win a majoirty in the Congress. We read Bush 41's lips concerning tax increases and then we read his signature on a deal with the Democrats raising taxes. Bush paid for his compromise by being a one term president. Conservatives were asked to be patient while Clinton was elected to two terms. But on the way to his second term, the Democrats lost their 40 year majority in the House of Representatives and finally, conservatives controlled part of Congress. In 2000, President Bush won the presidency running as a conservative and for the first time in forever, both the Senate and the House were in the hands of conservatives.
Surely we were about to see our country return to contitutional principles and see the liberal agenda driven by a "hate America first" philosophy be buried forever. But it was not to be. We were told our razor thin majority in the Senate and House was not a "working majority." We needed more than the White House, the Senate, and the House to effetively promote the conservative agenda. We needed some breathing room so a few "moderate" (read RHINO) Republicans couldn't block true conservative progress. Then Jumpin Jim Jeffords jumped over to the Democrats and conservatives were told we would have to wait again until the Senate could be retaken.
In the midterm elections of 2002, Republicans, bolstered by grassroots voter registration campaigns and pushed forward by faithful conservative elbow grease and shoe leather picked up seats in the Senate. It was an unprecendented event. Traditionally, the party that occupies the White House loses seats in the mid-term but not in 2002. Conservatives all over America began to ask "now can we see some real progress for the conservative agenda?" "No, we were told, we still must work hard and extend our advantage in the Senate." "We just need to get rid of Tom Dashle", they said. "He is the real obstructionist in the Senate."
So, one more time, conservatives gurided our loins and withstood one of the nastiest campaigns in history. Michael Moore, George Soros and Ted Kennedy released the Democrat dogs of war and called conservatives everything from Nazi's to terrorists.
When the dust settled after the 2004 elections, President Bush was returned to office and the Republicans ended the day by maintaining their majoirty in the House and increasing their majoirty to a whopping 55 to 45 advantage in the Senate. Surely, even with a few moderate Republicans in the Senate conservatives could now be assured of seeing their agenda advance. With a 10 seat advantage nothing could possibly derail a true conservative agenda.
Nothing that is except 7 sellout Republicans who faced the most critical issue of our day and responded by finding a way to "preserve the finest tradition of the Senate" rather than stand for the preservation of principle in the face of unreasonable attacks.
So who are the big winners here? Have the Democrats won because they stopped the Republican majority from restoring some sense of constitutional common sense to the Senate? Or have the Republicans won because they have secured the certain full Senate confirmation of three conservative appelate court judges? The answer is no and no. The real winner here is in the Senate but her victory will not be realized until the 2008 election. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been carefully positioning herself as a centrist since the 2004 Democrat election debacle. She has distanced herself from radical Howard Dean and she has reformed herself into an acceptable "middle of the road" persona in a political environment that is described as "increasingly polarized and partisan." Now that the Senate moderates have ridden in to save the day in the Senate, they will be portrayed in the media as the voices of reason. Conservatives who believe the United States Constitution shouldn't be peddled in some back room last minute deal are now the "extremists" who must be silenced so the mushy middle can reign.
So what are principled conservatives to do now? We waited, we worked, we faithfully listened to the voices of reason and we were betrayed by a deal that wins a battle but could very likely lead to the loss of the culture war. I am reminded of a scene from the movie Braveheart where William Wallace and the his valiant Scottish warriors were on the verge of victory against the British who had oppressed them for years. Victory was finally within their grasp...until Wallace gave the signal for Robert the Bruce to join the battle with his reinforcements only to see him leave the battlefield because "a deal" had been struck to preserve the land of the Scottish Nobles. The look on William Wallace's face (played by Mel Gibson), his total shock and dismay at the lack of resolve of his fellow countrymen describes how I feel at this moment.
I hope the so called Republican moderates enjoy their moment in the spotlight. The price of their deal making will be high. It may have just cost true conservatives our best chance at returning this country to the principles that made it great.