Friday, September 24, 2010

Deconstruction of the federal behemoth may actually happen if the many deeply conservative senators-in-waiting are elected

(Ken) Buck's supporters at the debate, held in a deeply conservative community, had raucously cheered and jeered over the previous hour. They fell into silence as he enumerated their grievances. Then he did everything but pass out the pitchforks. "They have heard us; they heard us," he continued. "But they ignored us. And come November 2, folks, they will ignore us no more."

In that cri de coeur, Buck encapsulated the energy, confidence, and revolutionary zeal crackling through the huge class of GOP Senate challengers now approaching the Capitol from all points on the map. In red, blue, and purple states alike, Republicans this year have nominated deeply conservative candidates such as Buck who vow to unravel much of what President Obama and the Democratic Congress have constructed over the past two years -- and then march on to challenge the legacies of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. Polls today suggest that many of them will get the chance to try.

Unless Democrats can recover lost ground, it appears likely that the 2010 elections will produce the biggest crop of freshman Republican senators since the 11 who arrived in 1994, and possibly even the 16 who were part of Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1980. Across a wide range of issues, the potential GOP Senate class of 2010 leans right even when compared with those earlier groups -- some contenders hold positions on the far frontier of modern American politics. Next year could bring to Washington the most consistently, and even militantly, conservative class of new senators in at least the past half-century.

The Republican Party's nominees are "more uniform in their philosophy, more populist, and more anti-Washington" than the 1980 and '94 GOP arrivals, says Craig Shirley, who has been active in conservative politics since the 1970s and has written a Reagan biography. "Today there is less [ideological] diversity and more unanimity of thinking."

Former Republican Rep. Vin Weber, who was elected from Minnesota in 1980 and helped plan the House GOP's ascendency into the 1990s, agrees. "We ran on a few big issues in 1980 -- an across-the-board tax cut, rebuilding the American military, a few things like that," says Weber, now a Washington lobbyist. "But the laundry list of conservative issues was a little shorter in those days and, as a result, you had a wider ideological range of candidates running for office around the country as Republicans. This class is more [ideologically] coherent, and it is largely in response to what they are hearing from their constituencies."

No comments: