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Going back to the future again

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By Jim Flynn

Columnists love political years. We’re into our third in a row, with no let up in comedy. Vice President Joe Biden’s wife said recently that he could have been Secretary of State if he had wanted the job. We’d have loved to see Mrs. Clinton boil over when she heard Jill and Joe drop that bomb during an appearance on Oprah.

In 2006 voters threw out some Republicans and put Congress in the unsteady hands of the Democrats. Under the muddleship of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the mumbleship of Senate Leader Harry Reid, it looks like voters traded corruption for confusion.

With their own leader in the White House and even greater majorities in Congress, Democrats now get a second wind, which may turn out to be more hot air. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, at some location other than the ranch in Crawford, Texas, Republicans are muddling mid-term election 2010 and the presidential election of 2012. Too early, you say? Mrs. Clinton was campaigning to get her room back before her suitcases reached the White House driveway in 2001.

Within hours after Democrats won the White House and a bigger share of Congress in November, a couple of young Republicans put together a campaign called “Rebuild the Party,” on a Web site by that name.

Most of the 10-point rebuilding program is aimed at dragging the Republican National Committee (RNC) into the late 12th- or early 21st century. Presently the Republican Party has no agenda and no leadership.

Having experienced a humbling defeat inflicted by the Obama campaign, young Republicans want the RNC to recruit five million new activists online, get better technology, rebuild local party structures, adopt new fundraising models, enlist bigger campaign forces, and contest every local and national office with a new generation of candidates who aren’t suffering late-onset arthritis.

Independent and swing voters aren’t interested in whether the RNC pulls up its socks. They’ll be more interested in the “Feedback Forum” blog that “Rebuild the Party” is conducting. What principles will Republicans preach and practice in the months ahead?

So far the hot items of interest are “The Fair Tax” (House Bill 25), fiscal conservatism, limited government, protection of individual rights, and former presidential candidate Ron Paul’s “Campaign for Freedom.” They should have listened to him years ago.

Young Republicans and independents aren’t turned on by a party dominated by old guys with Southern drawls. While Republicans lost only five Congressional seats in the South, they gave up 23 in other areas of the country. They hold no Congressional seats in New England.

The future of the Republican Party depends on what they try to sell to voters. Their classic response is a rallying call to return to Reagan principles. That’s going to be a hard sell after eight years of George W. Bush, who was in neither a Reagan Republican nor any other kind of conservative.

During the Bush years Republicans preached to the choir but practiced to the benefit of campaign contributors. The new chairman of the RNC, “????” will have to be a magician to change voters’ perception of Republican principles and policies in time for the Congressional election of 2010.

Nothing is more memorable to voters than empty pockets. Despite his inability to cure the Great Depression during his first term in office, the people returned Franklin Roosevelt to office for a second and third term because they were still suffering the effects of a Republican disaster which began in 1929.

Mr. Bush left office certain that history will grant him a positive legacy, except for a few turns of bad luck along the way. Voters, however, will continue to live in the reality that Mr. Bush left behind two unfinished wars, an economy on life support, and many voters who have become former members of the middle class.

The comedy in the Bush departure is that his administration bought ownership stakes in banks, insurance companies, and auto manufacturers – in effect nationalizing significant parts of our so-called free economy.

Eight years of welfare capitalism won’t keep righteous Republicans from claiming the new Democratic administration and Congress are practicing the sin of socialism. In 21st century Washington the only difference between parties is whose supporters get the welfare benefits from out-of-control deficit spending.

Jim Flynn was formerly a corporate counsel, served in military intelligence during the Korean War, and once aspired to be a newspaper columnist.