The status quo won last night. I am sure that both sides will spend the next few months trying to understand what happened and what lessons they should draw from yesterday’s election results, and I suspect that there is a long list of valid reasons that explains why Governor Romney lost.
However, I would like to suggest that one of these reasons may be that voters’ enthusiasm for the Republican party has faded as the party embraced big-government policies. In fact, in spite of what Republicans lawmakers say about or think of themselves, they have not been the party of small government for long time, and people know it. Obviously politicians try to come across as wanting a a smaller government than Democrats, but that’s not enough. Actions matter too, and on that front, Republicans have shown that they aren’t really willing to cut spending or to shrink the size of government. In recent months alone, Republicans voted for a huge new farm bill, voted against getting rid of Solyndra-type loan-guarantee programs, voted to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, approved sugar tariffs, and more. (For a list of such disappointments, go here.)
I think that it’s also unfortunate that on the issues of spending and the size of government, this campaign was fought only in the middle; there were talks of saving Medicare, not touching Social Security, and promises to increase defense spending while protecting federal education spending.
Going forward, Republican lawmakers should stop talking about being for small government, and start doing something about it. As I have said it before, we are in this mess today because free marketeers and conservatives in Congress, along with the pundits and the policy people who support them, have for years agreed to significant compromises of their principles, often in the name of practicality (think about the Republicans’ argument for Medicare Part D, or even conservatives’ enthusiasm for Chris Christie, a Republican who since his New Jersey primary has never concealed the fact that he was no small-government man). These compromises have produced the government we have today, and they do not seem to have helped at the polls.
Today is another day, and the fight to shrink the size and scope of government continues.