The one good thing you can say about midterm elections is that they are easier to ignore than the ones held during presidential years.
Which isn't to say they don't matter. Just a dozen years ago, the GOP took full control of Congress for the first time in four decades. While the champagne was still flowing, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) crowed that voters "didn't send us here to raise taxes half as much as Bill Clinton, increase spending half as much as Bill Clinton, or increase regulations half as much as Bill Clinton."
At the time, everyone assumed that Gramm meant that Republicans would shrink the size and scope of government. These days that's not so clear. Since 2001, when the GOP took over the executive branch along with Congress, inflation- adjusted federal outlays have increased a whopping 45 percent.
Gramm, of course, is long gone from office, as are most of the other architects of the "Republican revolution." Pollsters and even top Republican campaign officials (according to The Washington Post) are saying that the GOP will likely lose either the House or the Senate, maybe both.
Whether or not the Republicans actually end up in the minority, there's no doubt that after half a decade of controlling the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, the GOP has worn out its welcome with many voters. Indeed, a recent Gallup Poll found that 19 percent of Republicans 'had no favorable views' of their own party. There are many reasons for this: The Mark Foley scandal (or more precisely, the response of the GOP leadership to that scandal), dirty dealings with felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and especially the botched occupation of Iraq have all played a part.
So too has the flagrant, hypocritical unwillingness of Republicans to live by their own small-government philosophy. Eric Pfeiffer's "The Budget-Cutters Who Couldn't Stop Spending" (page 38) explores in excruciating, frustrating detail the failure of the Republican Study Committee the largest GOP coalition in Congress, one explicitly dedicated to cutting outlays and reducing government to rein in the party's big spenders. As Veronique de Rugy's story on "The Federal Budget's Long Emergency" (page 44) explains, the GOP majority has taken to hiding its spendthrift ways through the innovative use of "supplemental" and "emergency" appropriation bills, which don't require the same sort of disclosure and discussion as regular legislation.
In "Who Deserves the Libertarian Vote?" (page 20), we ask representatives from the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Libertarian Party why believers in "Free Minds and Free Markets" should pull the lever for their candidates. I don't know that you'll find any of their arguments particularly persuasive.
But I do know this: If the Republicans, who are never slow to talk up personal responsibility, are sent packing on November 7, it'll be their own damned fault.