Secret Republicans


Jay Homnick writes a fascinating essay today at The American Spectator on two topics he thinks are closely related: secret Republican voters and fiscal discipline. He identifies a vast segment of the Republican frequent voters, those people who do not publicly admit that they vote for the GOP. Having been born to a Democrat activist mother and having spent most of my adult life in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Berkeley, California, I am more aware than most of the benefits of not wearing my voting habits on my sleeve (or the bumper of my car) in public.

But Homnick takes the further step of identifying what he sees as the common trait among secret Republicans. We are all cheapskates. The central imperative keeping us silent on our political inclinations is the fear of being labeled as not—compassionate, simply because we do not want to throw an endless supply of money at every problem. I cannot deny certain miserly tendencies of my own, though my conservatism extends to national defense and many social issues as well. These non—fiscal inclinations are based on pragmitism. I am interested in what works, and entirely uninterested in pursuing policies that will look good to others but not work. I suspect most secret Republicans agree.

Homnick connects the two themes by positing a danger for the GOP leadership in the fiscal indiscipline of President Bush, who is undeniably a big spender. GOP honchos are taking for granted the continuing support of its base because they are only aware of the visible openly—conservative members. The secret cheapskate Republicans are the ones they are in danger of losing, people who will not vote Democratic, but who will simply not vote at all.

He is on to something, no doubt. My own email contains daily evidence of rising discontent among conservatives over Bush's spending. The vivid spectacle of mostly empty cruise ships chartered at the cost of a quarter billion dollars to house Katrina victims is the defining image of wasteful disaster response. And who among us does not shudder at the thought that Louisiana's two Senators, one of them a Republican, are demanding a thousand times more money, a quarter of a trillion dollars, be spent on their state, possibly the most notorious for corruption in the use of public monies?

My own reading of the situation is that while overspending is undesirable, it may be necessary to fertilize the electoral fields with the application of more, uh, nutrients than I would deem desirable. And winning elections is what it is all about.

But we are clearly at a point, in my view, where further spending must be accompanied by rigorous gimlet—eyed scrutiny for waste fraud, and abuse, those old standbys of political rhetoric. Generosity combined with prudence, in other words. The fact that Louisiana is so corrupt and so thoroughly Democract in its most corrupt precincts creates a wonderful opportunity for the GOP.

But opportunities must be seized. And President Bush and the Congressional leadership need to get serious about oversight.

Hat tip: Dennis Sevakis and Ed Lasky

Thomas Lifson   9 30 05