Two politicians who have been instrumental in the recent surge of small-government conservatism in the United States appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend to share their expectations about the upcoming midterm elections for Congress. Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi sat down at the table of NBC’s Meet the Press while former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2008 Sarah Palin appeared on Fox News Sunday.
According to Barbour, who, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has been the driving force behind the Remember November campaign and is sometimes mentioned as a possible contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2012, the midterm elections are undoubtedly a referendum on the Obama Administration. He mentioned the rising national debt and persistent joblessness rates as among the foremost of reasons for independent voters to swing to the right this election. “The Obama policies aren’t working,” he explained. “We need new policies.”
Sarah Palin was all the more blunt. “You blew it, President Obama,” she said. The message of these elections will be, “no more business as usual,” according to the former governor. Minority Leader John Boehner, who is likely to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, has been using the very same rhetoric for several weeks. Just what Republicans intend to do instead has remained largely unsaid however.
The Republicans have offered their Pledge to America but volunteered notably few concrete pro-growth policies. There is still a lot of anger on the right and with Democrats apparently confounded by voter frustration that sentiment will be enough to propel Republicans to victory. But if they want to channel their newfound popularity into sustainable electoral success, Republicans have to stop boasting and lay out a new agenda.
This fall though, “repudiating” the Democrats’ legislative agenda is more likely and that is precisely what Barbour promised.
Health care reform, which was enacted by Congress in the spring and which is still being contested by individual states for being unconstitutional, is a case in point. Republicans haven’t exactly promised to repeal Obamacare as they persist in calling it. Rather they will “replace” it, according to their Pledge or make “big changes” to it, in Barbour’s words.
Asked whether incoming congressmen and senators should be willing to compromise on such hotly contested issues, Sarah Palin said, “Absolutely not. That’s been part of the problem,” she added. “We can’t afford to compromise on principle.”
Both Barbour and Palin have been mentioned as possible Republican contenders for the presidency in 2012. Barbour said on Meet the Press that he hadn’t given running any thought yet. “After this election is over,” he added, “we’ll sit down and see if there’s anything to think about.”
Palin, too, seemed reluctant, citing media scrutiny of her person and her family as a reason for not throwing herself in the race. “I love the freedom that I have,” she said, “that I can tell you anything I want to tell you and not have to worry so much about how it will affect my future political career.” But, “the country is worth it,” she added, “to make those sacrifices. If the country needed me I would be willing to make the sacrifices.”