With the new Congress being sworn in this week, everyone is full of advice. Well, I’m no exception.
The first advice comes from Han Solo in the debut Star Wars film: “Don’t get cocky.” Republicans won big in the last election, but, if they think that constitutes an excuse to slip back into their old ways, circa 2004-06, then they are doomed — not just as individual politicians, but quite possibly as a party. The public’s patience is quite limited, and is likely to stay so for the foreseeable future.
Second, remember that fortune favors the bold. It’s true that ordinarily in politics, most progress occurs at the margins. But it’s also true that these are not ordinary times. Big money-saving and government-shrinking proposals in the House will establish a tone.
Third, look beyond Congress. There’s a simmering mood in favor of constitutional reform across the country. Nineties-era ideas like the Balanced Budget Amendment and federal term limits for Congress are popular again. No doubt other ideas will appear. Give them a fair hearing in Congress.
Fourth, ignore the press. The establishment media still has its power, but it’s perceived by an ever-greater percentage of Americans as simply an arm of the Democratic Party. If you pay attention, they have power over you. If you do what you think is right, they don’t.
Fifth, go after the infrastructure of the government-backed Left. Back in 2002, I wrote that Republicans should be repealing the awful Digital Millennium Copyright Act: By doing so, they’d not only build up goodwill among college-age downloaders and libertarian tech-types, but they’d also harm the entertainment-industrial complex that is a huge source of money and media power for Democrats.
Sixth, lead by example. Democrats have been hurt by, for instance, campaigning against Americans’ big carbon footprints while living in enormous mansions and flying in private jets. Don’t follow in their footsteps. Act like public servants, not members of an entitled aristocracy.
Finally, don’t forget that these are serious times. The country is on the verge of bankruptcy, the federal government is at a low point in terms of popular legitimacy, and the entire political class is on probation.
Rise to the occasion on the big things, and the little ones will take care of themselves. Drop the ball on the big things, and it won’t matter how tactically clever your political positioning is.
So, yeah. Don’t blow it.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a University of Tennessee law professor and author of the Instapundit blog.