Fred Barnes has another great piece, this time in the Journal:

The recipe for Republicans is to stop acting like, well, Republicans–that is, Republicans of recent vintage. In Congress, they’ve been soft on earmarks, the source of so much corruption. They practically invited Democrats to trump them on ethics and lobbying reform. And they’ve allowed their obsession with illegal immigrants to get out of hand. This drives away Hispanic voters and leaves the impression that Republicans are small-minded, ungenerous and nasty. The worst offenders are the presidential candidates, who would be wise to tone down their rhetoric on immigration.

I have a lot of non-political and Democratic friends. When they go after me for being a Republican, these are the two issues that they talk about, and two issues tht I have no response to. They think that we are wrong on Iraq, but they respect us. Besides, Democrats are increasingly admitting that the surge in Iraq is making progress militarily. But on immigration and ethics, we are clearly hopeless right now.

There has been a debate about whether earmarks are the problem and a good political issue. Patrick Hynes has taken the position that while they are bad, they are not a motivating issue. Ramesh Ponnuru has argued that there is not much there substantively. While I agree with the substance of their criticism, I think it misses the point. To quote John McCain, "earmarks are [the] gateway to corruption." The corruption in our party turns off a lot of voters. We are not talking about using this as an issue to fire up activists, we are talking about fixing the image.

The GOP needs a good lynching of its own crooks:

Forcing two or three House members and at least one senator to retire would involve more than friendly persuasion and no doubt provoke strong resistance. But the effort would attract national attention–favorable attention, for a change.

In other words, publicly shoot Representatives Rick Renzi and John Doolittle and Senator Ted Stevens with friendly fire. Then we start pushing for some real reform. After we show that we are serious about ethics and corruption, we can really go after the Dems on this. After all, they really are the party of institutionalized corruption.

Now this is not about getting us out of our hole on our broader coalition issues, and this is not an activist issue. But it is a way to start rebuilding trust between the voters and the party. We don’t have a plan for another 20-30 years of victory yet, but neither do the Democrats. However, we do have a strategy to get to parity.

Categories: Ethics