Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has become one of the best-regarded thinkers in the GOP over the last few years. He is a solid conservative who has been instrumental in crafting new conservative legislation and winning legislators in Congress to his side. Now he’s speaking out against the Export-Import Bank and using the possibility that the bank may survive as an example of the reason conservative voters distrust the GOP.
The Export-Import Bank is on the verge of being saved from extinction after surviving more than 80 years as one of the most egregious corporate-welfare boondoggles run by the federal government. Here’s why: one of the most powerful myths among the political class in Washington, D.C., is that the American people pay attention to politics only around the time of an election.
Thus we see politicians promising voters that they will do one thing while on the campaign trail only to do roughly the opposite once they’re safely ensconced in Washington, where, it is assumed, the dizzying complexity of the federal government will insulate members of Congress from the public scrutiny they faced while running for office.
This kind of thinking is more than just arrogant – it’s also untrue.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center proves that the American people are in fact watching and evaluating their elected representatives in Washington in the long stretches between elections – and it is clear that they do not like what they see.
The headline of the poll is that the Republican Party’s favorability rating has taken a negative turn of late, falling from 41 percent six months ago to an embarrassing 32 percent today, while the Democratic Party’s favorability rating has jumped seven points to 48 percent over the same time period.
But the real lesson is found deeper the poll’s data, which shows the steep decline in the GOP’s ratings is driven by disaffection among registered Republicans.
“Six months ago, 86% of Republicans viewed the GOP positively,” Pew’s analysts explain. But today only “two-thirds (68%) express a favorable opinion of their party.”
Never in the past two years have Republican voters had a lower view of their party than right now.
And the numbers aren’t much better when you look at the opinions of Independents, only 29 percent of whom view the GOP favorably today, compared with 37 percent six months ago.
So what gives? What happened over the past six months that could have caused such a dramatic erosion in Republicans’ view of the GOP?
The answer is painfully simple: Republicans in Congress have not kept the promises they made to voters last November.
This time last year, the American people were being told that, if given the opportunity to control both chambers of Congress, Republicans would put the federal government back on the side of Main Street, rather than serving Wall Street, K Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue as it had done for so long under Democratic control.
Well, last November the American people gave the GOP precisely such an opportunity, but Republicans in Congress have not held up their side of the bargain.
For what may be the last time before next year’s elections, Republicans have an opportunity over the next several days to change that by ensuring that the Export-Import Bank remains expired.
This is an historic opportunity to declare to the world that the Republican Party is dedicated to helping hardworking Americans succeed in a free-enterprise economy, instead of propping up well-connected and favored special interests in a crony capitalist system.
Whichever side we choose, the American people will be watching.