Some very promising green shoots are appearing at this time for those of us who would like to return the United States to the vision of its Founding Fathers: the pursuit of life, liberty and property through strictly limited government and the rule of law. The emergence of the Tea Party as a significant political and social force, under the exceptional entrepreneurial leadership of Sarah Palin, has seriously disturbed the duopoly control over the political process exercised by the Democratic and the Republican Parties. The fact that the current political establishment reacts with a mixture of incredulity and mockery at this manifestation of resistance demonstrates the threat that it poses to those who live off the fruits of progressiveness.
Let us suppose that Tea Party candidates out-perform expectations in the November 2010 elections and establish a significant toehold within the Republican Party. Further suppose that the GOP acknowledges this invasion, and determines to refocus its behavior from that of engrossing to that of reducing the size and the role of the federal government. From the perspective of public choice how, most effectively, might it proceed over the period 2010-2012?
Let us suppose that the GOP secures a small majority in the House of Representatives, while narrowing the gap in the Senate to a differential of 52: 48 in favor of the Democrats. In my judgment, this is the most likely outcome. It is also the perfect outcome for a reconstituted GOP that has decided to roll back the state. Let me explain.
While President Obama remains in office, the GOP most effectively will choose to play Defense, marshalling their efforts as determinedly as possible to encourage the progressive instincts of the left, while systematically thwarting their policy initiatives. To this end, they will forbear from logrolling, either in the House of in the Senate, save only where their own House majority threatens to slip away. They will send out a clear signal that cap and trade, card check, new trade protection, new regulations etc. will be blocked by a House firewall. They will hope that an increasingly frustrated President will vent his wrath by appointing ever- harder-leftist advisers and nominating ever- harder-leftist judges, all of which they will block through the Senate filibuster. They will know that a dis-functional President eventually will crack and expose his dark side.
If the GOP is successful in playing Defense, it might use the two years of interregnum to formulate a fully articulated, honest and transparent fiscal policy, designed to reform the federal tax system, and to reduce the size of the public sector, so as to rein in the federal government to no more than 20 percent of gross domestic product, operating under a balanced-budget rule. Such a policy manifesto would then launch its 2012 campaign to reshape fundamentally the political landscape of the United States.
Should the GOP be sufficiently lucky and sufficiently wise as to secure a 21st century Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan as its Presidential candidate, it might find itself, in January 2013, revelling in a new Morning in America. And we can rest assured that every Founding Father will then be rejoicing in his grave!