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And one of the fascinating things — and I think it reflects a wider feeling in our society — is that they dress up in the 18th century costumes but, more importantly, talk in the language of the Founding Fathers. And I think, you know, over the last 15 years, those of us interested in the publishing business have noted that there’s been a fascination on the part of readers and book-buyers with books about the Founding Fathers. Mean, we had one summer when the major beach book was a biography of John Adams. Who’d o’ thunk it?
But the fact is, the American people are thirsty for knowledge of the Founders — the challenges they faced, the ideas and thoughts they portrayed, the heroic acts that they overcame, pledging their lives, liberty and sacred honor to creating a new kind of government on the face of the earth. We’ve got — we want to learn more. We’ve had wonderfully written books about Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton.
And so you hear people talking about how no person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law; that the powers not directly given to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people.
This is suddenly part of our political dialogue. And it’s — you know, Phil Hare, the congressman from the 17th District of Illinois — a district drawn up by gerrymanderers to be a safe Democratic district — it squirrels all around downstate Illinois — somebody asked him about the constitutional basis of the healthcare plan. And he said, “I don’t care about the Constitution.” That’s got a million hits on YouTube. And he — you know, these people take an oath to uphold the Constitution. And when you see them saying, I don’t care about the Constitution, that seems to jar a lot of our fellow citizens. And Mr. Hare lost to a pizza parlor operator from Moline by a margin of 55 to 43.
And so, you know, I think Americans — funny thing, they do care about the Constitution. Mean, Nancy Pelosi was asked about the constitutional basis of the healthcare bill. And she paused in disbelief and said, “Are you serious?” Turns out they are serious.
And I’ve kind of seen the election cycle this year as a kind of argument between the ideas of the founders and the ideas — which are the guiding ideas for the Obama Democrats — of the progressives and New Dealers. Founders’ ideas — 220, 230 years old. The progressives, 100 years old; the New Dealers, 70 years old.
And you know, the progressives and the New Dealers basically said that, you know, the Constitution is a horse-and-buggy document. This was a term used by President Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson used it. These limitations on government are simply inappropriate in a modern industrial era. We now have great factories that produce technological marvels like the Model T. And in that kind of environment, you can’t expect the ordinary citizen to make his way through society. He needs the guidance of centralized experts with command-and-control public policies to help them navigate through. The intension here is to create a culture of dependence, where the ordinary citizen depends on an all-seeing and all-wise government to navigate them through life.
And what I think we see with the Tea Partiers, and I think we saw with the voters, was that Americans reject that culture of dependence and instead prefer a culture of independence, a culture in which people can choose their own way of life, make their way upward, make their contributions to society in ways that are particularly suited to their talents and abilities, and so forth.
So I think that we have seen an outright rejection of this. And what’s fascinating to me is that the words and ideas of the progressives and the New Dealers 70 and 100 years ago now sound tinny and old-fashioned as the Model T. The words of the Founding Fathers 220, 230 years ago ring as true as a silver spoon on a crystal goblet.
Now, we’re still counting the votes. California, in its wisdom, takes five weeks to count the votes. Brazil had an election on October 31st. They had all the votes counted in five hours. But California is not as advanced as Brazil, so we’re still waiting on that.
We know the Republicans gained six seats in the Senate. That’s less than some people had hoped. There are people who are going around saying, Well, that’s because Tea Party candidates ran and won. I think there may be something to that. When you get an inrush in political activity, you get a certain amount of people who prove to be maladroit candidates. And you get some true-believers that knock off people in the primaries, and the other party wins the general election. That happened with the peace or antiwar movement 40 years ago. It happened with the Tea Party movement today.
But I think that there can be no doubt that the Tea Party movement, the broader movement that it symbolizes, really added energy, enthusiasm, ideas and principles to the Republican Party that enabled it to win up and down in a historic victory. Six seats in the Senate is actually a good-sized gain. It’s now at 61, 62 in the House of Representatives. The Democrats are trying to count a couple other people out — we’ll see what happens to that.
In 1994, when the popular vote for the US House was the same in percentage terms as it appears to be this year, the Republicans gained about 450 seats in the House. This year, they gained about 680. I’m just talking about state legislatures. That was ballooned a little bit, because they won 122 new seats in New Hampshire, which has a 400-seat House of Representatives. But the fact is, this is very big. This shows the depth and the breadth of the public opinion movement that we’ve seen.
A lot of these people were not even queued to win. I mean, I follow some of the political newsletters of insiders of various states and talk to the political insiders. And I can tell you that Republican gains in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Minnesota, in North Carolina were larger than anybody expected. I mean, in Michigan, the Repubs needed 13 new seats to get a majority in the state House. The inside guys were saying, well, they probably pick up four or five; they may lose a few. Then they started dialing it upward. They gained 20. They gained — a lot of people that nobody figured was going to win those elections are now state legislators in the various state capitals.
That’s important for redistricting. We shouldn’t overemphasize that, but Republicans will control redistricting in 13 states, which will have five or more US House members with 165 House seats. Democrats control redistricting in only four states with 40 House seats. That’s not a huge — one of those states is Massachusetts which, bless them, elected 10 Democrats and no Republicans to the House once again this year. They’re going to be reduced to nine by the reapportionment following the census.
And so, while we can all hope that Barney Frank has returned to the House so that he can confront, as ranking minority member, Chairman Ed Royce of the Financial Services Committee, he is going to have one fewer Massachusetts Democratic colleague. No way the redistricting magic can work there.
So basically, we’ve got a country that has spoken loud and clear, that has made it a historic movement from one party to the other, and a movement that, it seems to me, is supported much more than that ’08 movement by serious thinking, intellectually rigorous thinking, about important public policy issues.
You know, what was the Democrats’ theme in ’08? Well, we had candidate, as he then was, Obama saying things full of content like, “We are the change we are seeking.” This time, we’ve got people talking about serious public policy, the Pledge to America from the House. House Republicans said we’re going to take spending back to 2008 levels. There’s — you know, some people say, Oh, government can’t get along with that. There’s a lot of people in this country that would like to have a W-2 that looked like their 2008 one, would like to have their 401(k) account that looked like their 2008, would like have house equity that looked like 2008.
And I think that the question facing us that we don’t fully know the answer to about public opinion is that — will a public that seems clearly to have opposed a vast expansion of the size and scope of government — will it now support cuts and changes and rollbacks and so forth? You know, it would be logical, certainly, to do so. Voters don’t have to be logical; they’re not confronted on “Meet the Press” with a YouTube of what they said four years ago and asked to justify the change of mind.
I’m optimistic, however, as I look around the country and around the world. Looking around the country, you have people like Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana who has a record of cutting back government. When he went to one school district, and they said, “This district has been hit terribly. We had to lay off nine teachers and one administrator,” he said, “Why didn’t you lay off nine administrators and one teacher?” I think we got on the public payrolls a lot of facilitators and liaisons and outreach officers that actually America did pretty well for 200 years without.
And I think Mitch Daniels was reelected in India by a margin of 58-40. When Barack Obama was carrying the state, he ran one point ahead of Ronald Reagan in the most affluent county in the state, carried 20 percent of black voters, 37 percent of Latinos and young voters, 51-42. That says to me that there may be a future in cutting back government.
We have seen emerging onto the political national scene the very large figure of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. How many here have seen Chris Christie videos? Clearly, the Teachers Union has been spending $10 million on ads against him, $10 million that come straight from the taxpayers. The taxpayers have not been deluded by this, and they seem to be on the side of Chris Christie.
We can see what’s happening in Europe. You know, many of us have been saying that America was following the policies of Old Europe. Now we’ve got a situation where the Chancellor of Germany has informed President Obama that the US is spending too much money to have an economic recovery. We’re seeing the government of the UK have 25 percent spending cuts for many government departments. They’re laying off 500,000 public sector workers. The public approves. We see center-right governments winning reelection in Sweden and Latvia.
This is something that seems to be happening around the world. And I think that, you know, there’s a conventional wisdom out there that Republicans got in trouble after the 1994 election because we had a budget fight between Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton. I think this is [among] many reasons the conventional wisdom doesn’t get the whole story. For one thing — and obviously, Speaker Gingrich can answer the particularities of this better than I can — the result was spending went flat for a year, which went a long way towards the balanced budget in the later decade.
The other thing is that, you know, although President Clinton was reelected, the supposed disaster for the Republicans was they lost nine seats. That’s a little less than 62, isn’t it? At least if I’ve got my math here.
So I think we’re going to see some continued fights. We’re going to see important fights between the administration trying to use regulatory apparatus to achieve policy goals, now that they no longer have supermajorities in Congress; and between Congress trying to do something else. So it’s vitally important for Republicans to have effective committee chairmen on the Governmental Operations Committee, which Darrell Issa will be chairman of/ on the Energy and Commerce Committee and on the Financial Services Committee, which our friend, Ed Royce, is a candidate for chairman.
Let me just close with a few words about 2012. Look, in a period of open-field politics, it is risky to make straight-line extrapolations from the last election to the next one. Ask Karl Rove, ask James Carville. You know, there’s some reasons to believe that 2012 won’t be as unfavorable to Barack Obama as 2010 was. He’s not likely to have primary opposition, unless it comes from perhaps the peace wing of the party. And if you [ever] want to send contributions to Howard Dean, I’m sure it’ll be appreciated.
But most Democrats — you know, the primary electorate is 20 percent black on the average in the Democratic primary. And I think, you know, most Democratic politicians wouldn’t want to run on that. People have asked me about Hillary Clinton. And my line is that Hillary Clinton has saved a lot of money for the American taxpayers. Because previous secretaries of state have travelled around the world on very expensive jet aircraft, and Hillary can get around on her broom. That’s just a cheap partisan shot, it’s not meant as vicious criticism or anything.
But anyway, I think, you know, Republicans in 2010 were seeking control of one branch of government. In 2012, they’ll be seeking two. That’s a harder sell. That requires more victories in the battle of ideas than have yet been won. And Michele Bachmann, I thought, spoke very eloquently and wisely about that.
I think many voters will be reluctant, for reasons understandable in light of our history, to reject the first African-American President. That is simply a factor in the election that is something that’s there. And I think in addition, Barack Obama doesn’t have the kind of personal characteristics that made so many people on the other side of the political and cultural divide absolutely loathe Bill Clinton on the one hand, George W. Bush on the other.
But I do think we have evidence from this election that this is a pretty clear rejection of this vast expansion of the size and scope of government. The Tea Party people are talking about numbers that are real. Just go look at those CBO reports — this is not a figment of their imagination. And I think that voters have in 2010, as they did in 1946, basically rejected an attempt to create a hugely larger welfare state in this country.
I have no idea who will win the Republican nomination for President. I think that if you gave me a list of candidates I could give you a reason why each one of them cannot win the nomination. You know, zero-sum game — all but one player must lose, but then one player has to win. So somebody’s going to win that nomination.
But I think the feelings I’ve heard expressed by Michele Bachmann and by other people here are pretty sound, which is that if we are seeking to affect the style and substance of governance in this country, and seeking to influence the culture, winning the battle of ideas is at least as important as electing a specific individual as President.
People say, you know, we want to elect another Ronald Reagan. Well, you know, there was only one Michelangelo, there was only one Mozart, there’s only one Ronald Reagan. You don’t get seconds on something like that. And I think it’s unwise to look for salvation in just one leader. I think the kind of advances that we’ve made in the battles of ideas are heartening. But they are not the end of the road, and they are not full victories.
So with that attempt to dodge predictions on 2012, I’ll conclude my comments.
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