Advice to Republicans from a Disheartened, Retiring House Democrat

Rep. Brian Baird, a retiring six-term Democrat from Washington state, relays to John Fund of the WSJ the advice he would give incoming Republicans:

“Governing isn’t as easy as you think. Many of you have taken pledges that are contradictory—to balance the budget and cut taxes, for example. You must be honest about the numbers, since our annual deficit now exceeds all discretionary spending combined. If you set as your goal to roll back the size of government, you have an obligation to answer the tough questions and show real courage, not just appeal to ideology. Treat the voters like adults.”

Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with much of what he had to say1.

Last night, I was listening to Mark Levin, and a couple of callers brought up their fears that some incoming members might not stay as conservative as advertised once they get to DC. Levin lit into them. Can we guarantee that each and every new Representative will follow what they laid out in their campaigns? Of course not, shot back Levin, but that lament flows only from those not willing to do the work to hold our elected officials feet to the fire once the 2010 elections are over. Eternal vigilence is the price of freedom.

RedState readers are familiar with the entitlement problem the US Government is facing. And who thus far has shown the courage to acknowledge the problem and propose a realistic solution involving some of the inevitable pain? Not Barack Obama, who is seeking the cover of a “bi-partisan commission.”2 As far as I know, only Representative Paul Ryan R-Wisc has proposed a realistic solution/roadmap involving painful allocations of limited resources to get the adult discussion started.

We must continue to engage, and not let the 2010 campaign principles fall by the wayside as the Democrats did following their 2006 victory. Regarding “the most ethical Congress in history”, Baird acknowledges and laments

Before the 2006 election, he says, Mrs. Pelosi had 30 members working on a rules package to make the House more ethical and deliberative. “We abandoned all that work after the election, and leaders told us we should trust them to clean things up. I don’t know a single member of the Democratic caucus who saw the final rules package before they voted on it.”

Among his many examples of Democrats succumbing to the love of power, Baird cites a lack of fiscal transparency3

“We initially had numbers a bit more honest than the Republicans—we at least included war costs in the budget,” he says. “Now we’re authorizing programs for three years instead of five in an attempt to pretend we’re saving money.”

The difficulty for those taking Baird’s view of the world is that the trappings and perks of power go hand-in-hand with the types of programs he would support. All it takes for statists to siphon from Big Government programs is a little subtlety or sleight-of-hand. See Harry Reid’s fortune.

Conservatives, on the other hand, will find the trappings and perks of power in conflict with their principles. Of course, many will stray. But it will be our job to be vigilant, and to call them on it. There is hope for America in the newly engaged citizenry.

This is not the beginning of the end, but rather, only the end of the beginning.

1 The most glaring, obvious exception is his second vote in March for ObamaCare. He originally voted against it in November.

2 What result did we get when we fed our pre-surge situation in Iraq to the CYA dynamics of a bi-partisan commission? THe totally predictable timid groupthink.

3 I concede to his criticisms of the Bush fiscal stewardship, although I retain my view that Obama’s level of irresponsibility is the Bush level on steroids.