Barack Hussein Obama will enter the Oval Office today as the most powerful president in American history.
He will have a willing and pliant Congress, with solid Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.
He will have a powerful and fawning media that sees Obama as the last, best savior of progressive America.
He will have an engaged and aggressive cyber-corps, Internet activists who love Obama and hate his opponents.
He will have a desperate and confused business community, who are coming to the federal government looking not for regulatory relief but for bailouts, handouts and any other -out they can think of.
He will have the love and affection of Hollywood, who see in Obama their ideal of the perfect movie-land politician.
About the only forces that can possibly stand as a check on this unbridled power are the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a slim conservative majority (the best legacy of the Bush administration), 41 wobbly votes in the U.S. Senate and Rush Limbaugh.
Our system of checks and balances abhors such an unbalanced advantage for the chief executive. No matter how noble B.H. Obama might be, no matter how compassionate, not matter how just, as he steps into the Oval Office, he will have too much power. And we all know the aphorism about power and corruption.
But how can Republicans start the process of acting as an effective check on the new president? What kinds of things must they do to stop the overreach by the Obama administration without forever branding themselves as obstructionist, racist or worse?
Here are some ideas:
1) Gain credibility by giving the new president the benefit of the doubt. Knee-jerk attacks on the Obama administration will not help the Republican cause. Give him a chance to make some mistakes.
2) Find one big thing to work with him on; don’t oppose the president on everything. Find the one issue on which you can cooperate with Obama that will benefit both sides. Economic stimulus is likely that one big issue.
3) Make one sympathetic cause your own. The Democrats were able to make family farmers their cause célèbre in the ’80s. Republicans should make small-business owners their own. Defending the real engine of the economy and the best path to the American Dream is not a bad place to draw the line in the sand.
4) Attack not Obama, but his allies, especially his congressional allies. The best check on Obama will be a Republican Congress. That may seem farfetched at this juncture. But the first time the Obama administration will be held accountable will be in two years. Focus not on Mr. Obama, but Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid, in order to make it a reality.
5) Infiltrate Hollywood: The best-selling movies in America are family movies, not the artsy-fartsy flicks that come from the left-wing intelligenstia that currently dominate the Hollywood scene. Movie moguls like nothing better than the color of money. Conservatives need a plan to get equal billing in the production, distribution and exhibition of movies that honor the best of the American spirit.
6) Compete for the middle: Conservatives love to point out that America is a center-right country, and then promote plans to move the country sharply to the right. It is all about the center. Republicans must compete in the middle by moving to the middle on key issues, like healthcare, entitlement reform, economic security, etc.
7) Excite the youth of the country: My 2-and-a-half-year-old is excited about Barack Obama. Even he is saying “yes we can.” We need to construct a message that excites the next generation of voters. It cannot just be about the vegetables of fiscal discipline and the dark warnings of moral decay. It also needs to be about the great possibilities inherent in freedom and in responsibility.
The new president comes with a huge mandate, a tattered opposition and a great opportunity to consolidate and exercise power. Republicans must plot a path that intelligently counters the new administration. It must do so not with a passion of blind opposition, but with the foresight of a loyal yet smart check on unbridled power.