Academic journal article Policy Review


Academic journal article Policy Review


Article excerpt

Governors v. Congress

SIR, -- The February/March 2000 issue of Policy Review carried an article by David Winston ("The GOP'S Two Brands") arguing that there were two "brands" in the Republican Party: the governors and the Republican Congress. Winston argued that the governors have been more successful and the Republican presidential candidate and the Republican Party should look to the governors rather than the GOP Congress for a successful model.

The Republican governors have won high ratings in the polls. So has Bill Clinton.

The Republican Congress has changed the world. The liberal establishment press has attacked the Republican Congress because of its success in promoting conservative policy victories. The same press has been most supportive of those governors who have done the least to advance the cause of limited government.

Let's look at the record. In 1994, the Republicans won majorities in the House and Senate and won a net gain of 11 governors for a total of 32 GOP governors.

The Republican Congress passed welfare reform three times -- Clinton signed the third effort; passed the Freedom to Farm Act ending the Hoover/Roosevelt/Stalin agricultural five year plans; passed the first tax cut in 16 years; began rebuilding the nation's defenses; passed a law making the deployment of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative American policy; reformed Medicare; passed Medical Savings Accounts; and held down spending such that the 10 year projections for deficits are $6 trillion less than Clinton's and we now run surpluses rather than deficits. Congress passed other bills that Clinton vetoed: the partial birth abortion ban, school choice for low-income students in Washington, D.C. The abolition of the death tax. Expanding IRAS and 401(k)s, sending Medicaid to the states.

Of the now 30 Republican governors, how many have accomplished one half as much in the same five years as the Republican Congress? And 15 of those Republican governors now have complete Republican control of both houses of the state legislature.

And how about electoral success? The GOP has won three congressional elections in a row. The House majority fell by eight in 1996 and five in 1998. A loss of 13 seats of a total of 236 or 5.5 percent while the Senate has increased its Republican members from 53 to 55 (a 4 percent gain), and since 1994 Republican governors have gone from 32 GOP governorships to 30 or a loss of 6 percent.

The Republican Congress's approval numbers and the generic polling numbers have increased dramatically from their low numbers immediately following the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Since January 1999 House Republican support among women has increased 14 percent, among independents by 19 percent. The GOP now polls ahead of Democrats in the generic ballot test.

And House and Senate Republicans have not done anything destructive. Republican governors have. Marc Racicot of Montana actually vetoed his Republican legislature's law to enforce paycheck protection; he threatened to veto school choice and right to work legislation. Utah's Gov. Leavitt has spent the past year campaigning to tax the Internet. Several governors have spent their political capital getting taxpayer funding for sports stadiums and raising gas taxes.

There are bright spots. James Gilmore of Virginia stands out as a strong governor who has brought his party to majority status while cutting taxes and promoting conservative causes nationally -- e.g., not taxing the Internet. Florida's Jeb Bush, only a year in office, has cut taxes, abolished racial preferences, and passed a statewide school choice measure and is likely to reform his state worker pension system this spring.

The heart of the Reagan Republican majority, however, is the Republican Congress. Republican governors have the power that comes from patronage, state contracts, and the executive branch's command of the bully pulpit. …

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