UPDATE 1) Bainbridge agrees, emphatically.
Bruce Bartlett is a true-blue conservatively-oriented guy, although we will quibble with him over economics. Nonetheless, B is hardly a Democrat bomb-thrower. So when he opines:
One of the most important political developments in America today is the creeping corruption of the Republican Party. Increasingly, there is little meaningful difference between Republicans in Congress and the Democrats they replaced a little over 10 years ago. Unless they clean up their act fast, Republicans are going to suffer major losses in next year's congressional elections.
There is no question that Democrats had become deeply corrupt during the 40 years after 1954 when they controlled the House of Representatives continuously. Everyone knew it, just as everyone knows the truth of Lord Acton's famous maxim, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is why the House bank scandal involving bounced checks was so politically potent -- it personified petty Democratic corruption in a way that average people could relate to.
...Although few Republicans will speak on the record about such abuses for fear of retaliation, it is a growing topic of private conversation. Earlier this year, The Washington Post quoted one leadership aide as lamenting, "It took Democrats 40 years to get as arrogant as we have become in 10."
...So when Republicans begin to ape the Democrats by proposing endless pork-barrel projects and lavish new drug benefits for the elderly, while not even pretending to care about the budget deficit, it makes rank-and-file Republicans wonder why they should remain in a party that has little meaningful difference from the Democrats. Many are going to stay home on Election Day next year, I predict.
When Republicans no longer stand for any sort of principle, it becomes a simple matter to use power just to reward your friends or those with connections. Things like the Abramoff scandal are the logical consequence. A renewed commitment to principle is the best antidote.
That "off the record for fear of retaliation" stuff is common even in Wisconsin. Look, for example, at the combox in Playground Politics following a rumination about "intelligent" members of the Wisconsin legislature. Note carefully the number of ANONYMOUS comments. Granted that Anonymous makes a disproportionate number of remarks in blog comboxes--at the same time, one wonders about the "fear factor" which drives some of the posters.
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