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With a Majority Like This . . .
Whatever happened to the conservative party?


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Mark Steyn

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the May 8, 2006, issue of National Review.

Last year Newt Gingrich was up in New Hampshire and my neighbor Scott went along and expressed various dissatisfactions with the GOP Congress. And Newt said, well, you must remember Republicans are still pretty new at this, we’re not used to being in the majority.

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That’s it? The Iraqis are expected to pick up the ins and outs of this governing business instantly, but the Republican party can’t get the hang of it after eleven years? Don’t worry, I’m not predicting electoral disaster this November. It would be nice to think that the GOP might get to enjoy a Geena Davis-style “hiatus” while they “retune” their winning formula. But I doubt it will happen: Even losers need someone to lose to, and the Democrats have failed to fulfill even that minimal requirement for the last decade.

Christopher Hitchens said on the Hugh Hewitt show recently that he “dislikes” the Republican party but has “contempt” for the Democrats. I appreciate the distinction, though I’m not sure I could muster even that level of genial tolerance. The Democrats have been the most contemptible opportunists in the years since 9/11: If they’ve got nothing useful to contribute to the great challenge of the age they could at least have the decency not to waste our time waving around three-year-old Abu Ghraib pictures and chanting “exit strategy” every ten minutes.

But what happened to the other guys? “The Republican party,” says Arlen Specter, “is now principally moderate, if not liberal”–and he means it as a compliment. “I’ll just say this about the so-called porkbusters,” chips in Trent Lott. “I’m getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble since Katrina.”

Well, to be honest, I’m a good half-decade past getting damn tired of hearing from Trent Lott. But the difference is that, as a member of the pork-funding sector of the economy, I pay for him; he doesn’t pay for me. . . .

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