On the Morning After, Marking to Market the Overinflated Hype

by Douglas Holtz-Eakin

I like 2010 better than 2008. “The day after” two years ago consisted of dragging my hangover to the last flight of the Straight Talk Express mixed with large doses of staring blankly into space. It is much more fun to worry about how big a victory will ultimately be instead of tabulating the scale of epic defeat.

But one constant in every “day after” is the need to move past the emotions and ground the discussion in hard reality. What are those realities today? To me the biggest is to mark to market the overinflated hype about what Republicans are going to do.

The reality is that Republicans will not set the agenda. The Tea Party will not set the agenda. Conservatives will not set the agenda. Barack Obama remains the president of the United States. He will continue to set the agenda; he has the largest megaphone, and has the obligation to lead. Today represents the beginning of answering the most interesting question: Will Barack Obama, for the first time, put action behind his words regarding bipartisanship and willingness to reach across the aisle, and work with Republicans? Or will this continue to be rhetoric only, with actions guided by his liberal instincts?

For Americans, this will matter greatly. But for Republicans, it should matter little. Their gains reflect the fact that voters want government based on first principles — a small, contained, efficient government — and Republicans campaigned on this. Voters also want accountability, so Republicans should cast every vote from a small government, efficiency perspective regardless of the agenda the White House presents.

One can only hope that Barack Obama will choose to lead in addressing the fiscal future that threatens our prosperity and freedom. Republicans should remain laser-focused on the fact that spending is at the core of this problem, controlling spending is the key to reducing the deficit, and reducing the burden of government is the key to stronger economic growth.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.

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