Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Delay from the other side

SunTzu expresses her conservative views of Tom Delay.

No one in the Republican caucus and broader GOP community would question Majority Leader Tom Delay's conservative bona fides. Yet, Mr. Delay responded to calls for cuts to earmarks in the recently enacted transportation bill by preemptively stating that "My earmarks are pretty important to building the economy". What does it mean when an avowed fiscal conservative and leader of the conservative small government movement makes such a remark?

Mr. Delay faces the toughest re-election fight of his life next year. As usual, the stakes are not ideological as the Democrats are not attempting to unseat Mr. Delay by advancing better ideas. Rather, they have waged a fairly succcessful campaign that seeks to tar Mr. Delay with the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal brush. This unprincipled assault on Mr. Delay's integrity has softened support for the congressman in his district.

What is significant is that a fiscal conservative facing a difficult re-election fight does not run on the conservative principles that led to his election in the first place. What is significant is that Mr. Delay thinks the way to turn back this electoral challenge is by delivering big government pork to his district.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for Mr. Delay getting re-elected. I'm confident that Mr. Delay knows his district and what it will take for his re-election to be successful. And there's the rub. In the fight of his life, Mr. Delay has decided that he needs to bring home the pork.

It is a commonplace that stress tests character and that under stress we tend to fall back on those behaviors that we really trust. When push comes to shove, an otherwise principled leader of the conservative movement, has decided that his re-election efforts are more likely to succeed using government largesse than advancing the conversative agenda. I trust Mr. Delay's reading of how to succeed in the 2006 election. I find his answer disturbing.

I don't blame Mr. Delay for the situation in which he finds himself. Rather I think it illustrates the crossroads at which we conservatives now find ourselves. Recent electoral successes have brought sweeping affirmation of the conservative message. Yet, despite this affirmation Mr. Delay's conviction that his re-election depends to some not insignificant measure upon delivering the pork is a symptom of the fact that the changes in national governance envisioned by the conservative message have yet to be understood at a gut level by the American people.

Conservatives are justified in their exuberance for and celebration of our electoral successes. At the same time, we need to recognize that we are only at the halfway point. Ideas have yet to be meaningfully translated into convictions.

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