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Preserving the Republican Coalition

Wednesday, 22 December 2004 12:00 AM

Compare this with results after the 2004 elections: Republicans had 232 Members of the House, Democrats had 202 and there was one Independent. That is a gain of 54 seats. It compares with the high-water mark after the 1994 elections when Republicans had 236 seats, the Democrats had 198.

Today in the Senate there are 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one Independent. That is a gain of 11 and is the same number of Republicans that were in the Senate after the 1996 and 1998 elections.

In Lower Houses of the State Legislatures, the GOP has 25, the Democrats 24. (Nebraska is not included as it is non-partisan.) That is a gain of 11 Lower Houses of State Legislatures and closely compares with results after the 2002 elections when the Republicans controlled 27 State Legislatures.

In State Senates, Democrats control 25, Republicans 24. That also represents a gain of 11 and is similar to results after the 2002 election, when Republicans controlled 25 Legislatures, Democrats controlled 21 and the others were tied.

There are now 966 State Senators and 2,689 Members of the Lower Houses for the Republicans. That represents a gain of 652 state legislative seats since 1992, the year Bill Clinton was first elected.

As to governors, there are now 28 Republican governors, 22 Democrat. That is a gain of 8 from 1992. This compares with the high-water mark of 30 GOP governors after the 2000 elections.

What all this tells us is that Republicans have been elected by a fairly narrow margin beginning in 1994 and have held on, but it wouldn't take much to reverse that result, especially in the Congress. If Republicans are going to hang on to the House and Senate, for example, they must perform.

The Republican Party is really a coalition of interests. There are those who support the GOP because they are perceived to be the party that will keep the nation safe from terrorists. There are those who give their support because, historically (although not now), Republicans were more responsible fiscally. These same people probably support Republicans as the party that keeps taxes relatively low. Also there are those who associate the GOP with a strong national defense. Finally, there are the values voters, who mostly supported the Republicans.

The margin of victory in the Electoral College was rather close. And the popular-vote victory was less than three and a half million for the president in 2004. That is good enough for a mandate, but the GOP leadership had better understand that the defection of any one of the elements of this coalition would be fatal to the party.

That is why a missile defense system must be launched. That is why the Federal Marriage Amendment must be revived. That is why United States Appeals Court judges and Supreme Court justices must be confirmed. That is why spending must be controlled. That is why Republicans had better understand what is happening with the war in Iraq and how to depart after the elections. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Democrats grew arrogant in their latter days of power. They treated the minority like dirt. They could have cared less what the minority party said; they were in control and, by golly, they were going to do things the way they wanted them done.

Republicans would do well to examine that period of history. They ought to pay attention to the contemptuous language that was used by the Democrats. The reason Republicans need to do this is because they are beginning to sound just like the Democrats formerly sounded. Yes, Republicans have managed to hang on for a decade in the House even though they were down to 221 Members after the 2000 election. (It takes 218 to constitute a majority.)

Remember that the Democrats took control of the Senate five months into the 107th Congress and hung onto it by a single vote, until the voters reversed the situation for the 108th Congress. The majority is fragile. Lose any group in the coalition (economic conservatives were nearly lost in 2004; what kept them in the coalition were the federal judiciary appointments) and the GOP is doomed.

People are reasonable. They don't expect to get everything they would like. But they must get enough so that they feel it is worthwhile to participate. To that end, President Bush, Senator Frist and Speaker Hastert were brilliant. They did enough for each part of the coalition to keep them on board.

The second term has arrived. There are no excuses now. Republicans control the ballgame. They must produce. Moreover, they can't just produce for one part of the coalition while neglecting the others.

Granted, it would be monumental if the President were able to change the Social Security system and revise the tax code in a major way. It would be a tremendous accomplishment. However, if it were accomplished by the President’s having spent all of his capital to do so, there would be nothing left for missile defense or values issues. That would destroy the coalition.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.


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Compare this with results after the 2004 elections:Republicans had 232 Members of the House, Democrats had 202 and there was one Independent.That is a gain of 54 seats.It compares with the high-water mark after the 1994 elections when Republicans had 236 seats, the...
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 12:00 AM
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