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So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The two major forms of Republicanism each have a doctrine that is tied to actual documents. Religious social conservatives have The Bible, while fiscal and Constitutional conservatives have the Constitution. It is safe to say that the vast majority of Republicans have their political tenants supplied by one, if not both, of these documents. This type of textual anchor is a positive philosophically and morally but in a strictly political sense can be a liability. The resulting positives are what tend to be deep, time-tested convictions, stability, certainty and, when used, an effective measuring stick for candidates in primaries. However, in our current event driven and largely politically uninformed society the negative is that this rigidness makes it nearly impossible to adapt positions to individual situations and use current events for maximum political gain.

This is a problem that the modern day liberal Democrat will not have anytime soon. They indeed stand in the starkest of contrast. Having left the Constitution behind decades ago, they move forward with no defined doctrine. No set of black and white documents that create, inform, or guide their ideology (and don’t even try to give me the party platform). This creates a situation in which changing party leadership sets an evolving standard as to what defines a Democrat. This not only allows them to easily tailor their political message to what they perceive to be popular at the moment, but grants them the option of playing the role of “lifeguard” and coming to the citizenry’s rescue with politically crafted legislation.

This, in tandem with the current perception that this is indeed the role of government, is extremely effective but thankfully also comes with disadvantages. First, the party can more easily be driven to the fringes as their lack of rigid philosophical boundaries allows a handful in the leadership of a given generation to rather rapidly change their party’s principles. A quick look at their current leadership and the top three finishers in the last two Presidential primaries reveal not a single, even remotely, moderate candidate and safely proves this point. Second, though both unfortunate and ironic, their biggest roadblock is that given our current level of debt the Government simply can not sustain an ever increasing financial role. As long as our citizens are concerned with the debt, and according to the most recent polling all but 24% are, their “lifeguard” advantage will be minimized. Though these points make it likely that due to their intensely progressive ideology they will drive themselves off a cliff, in the short term this chameleon like flexibility to adapt to changing realities is a net advantage and one that must be tactically dealt with. What has been created here is the political equivalent of a moving target and the challenge facing Republicans is developing a sound defensive strategy. Sounds strange to say, but the question is: how does one turn the political disadvantage of having and following defined ideological principles and a narrow view of the Federal government’s role into an advantage?

What should be done from a focus standpoint, and what is currently working, is a continued, exhaustive fixation on deficit spending and our National debt. What should be added is further concentration on the ineffectiveness of the Stimulus Package, especially considering the Democrats just quietly tried to procure another $50 billion in borrowed money to funnel to the States. The Recovery Act is not only recent, relatively uncomplicated, and directly tied to the current Liberal leadership, but proves rather blatantly that even with a trillion dollars the Federal Government is not capable, nor was it designed to, “fix” these types of problems. Simply put Republicans can not afford such an expensive and unnecessary tragedy to occur without it being politically fatal to the Democrats.

Legislatively two things come to mind. First, the already passed PayGo legislation needs to be hammered on and strictly followed by Republicans no matter the circumstance. In many ways this was a gift given by the Democrats, as it fits the Republican message, while almost certainly being a check written for political reasons to the American people that Liberalism will not allow them to cash. Along with this is what should be a unified, party-wide push for an Enumerated Powers Amendment. In my view this is the Republicans single best chance to not only start reigning Government back in, but also to maintain the energy of the Tea Party movement by proving that motion in their direction is both possible and something besides lip service. While the actual passage of such an amendment is an impossibility given the Republican’s current minority status, and I concede likely a long shot even with complete control of the Legislative branch, forcing the Democrats to vote down or ignore this concept would pay huge dividends now and in the future.

While any marksmen will tell you the only way to hit a moving target is to aim in front, in this case the surest place to aim is behind, and more specifically about 234 years behind. While it is certainly frustrating to watch the opposition bend and mold their positions to gain short term political support, and though it may be true in this day and age that strictly adhering to principles of limited government may at times seem like a burden, we must as Republicans resist the convenience of straying. We must be strengthened by the knowledge that in the long run, being principled and following the Constitution’s principles is always the correct answer. In those times that the temptation to deviate presents itself we can remember the Italians’ have an old saying for just such a quandary, “A burden that is chosen is not felt.”

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