Drill here, drill now, pay less. This is the mantra of former U.S. speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, whose American Solutions policy group is campaigning for America to begin tapping its own oil resources to combat high gas prices. For all the environmental constraints the U.S. government has placed on domestic oil production (China and Cuba are drilling closer to the U.S. coastline than American companies are allowed to do), polls show Americans would rather pay less for gasoline than fight global warming. Indeed, the price of gas now permeates almost every policy discussion, from foreign affairs to inflation.
As we approach the 2008 elections, whichever presidential candidate and party conjures a cogent energy plan — incorporating domestic drilling and defying environmental alarmism — will be rewarded.
At first glance, it would seem that spiralling gas prices and frustration at the pumps would hurt the incumbent party. Notwithstanding the Democrats’ majorities in both houses of Congress, it is the Republican party that the public identifies with incumbency, saddled as they are with an unpopular president who catches blame for everything from poor Iraq war planning to inclement weather.
But the religious environmental zealotry of much of the Democrats’ base makes them the party of windmills and stern lectures, not practical solutions. Congressional Democrats have contented themselves with browbeating today’s most politically correct villains, oil executives, while reflexively voting down any proposed energy solution, from domestic drilling to nuclear power. The Democrats’ presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, has suggested that high energy costs might carry the benefit of forcing America to change its gluttonous ways, recently chiding his countrymen: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”
Americans did not win the Cold War so they would have to consult Sweden before setting their thermostats. This kind of thinking is anathema to the Land of the Free, and it opens the door for the GOP to capitalize on the energy issue.
In 1994, Gingrich’s Republicans achieved a majority in Congress through a simple, common sense platform known as the Contract with America. A one-page roster of eight reforms and 10 proposed Acts, the Contract neatly answered voters’ principal questions of those who seek to govern. To wit, who are you, what do you hope to accomplish, and how will you do it?
In 2008, with energy prices fixing to become the top election issue, combining foreign and domestic policy concerns into a monstrous hybrid of a problem, an understandable and workable proposal could help the GOP again. If every Republican running for office, from freshman House candidates to their presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, spoke with a single, sensible voice on this issue, they could snatch victory from defeat.
A first draft might read: “We are Americans too, and we know that energy prices have gotten out of hand. We want to reduce fuel costs for all of us, and cut the number of dollars we send to hostile, oil-producing countries in the Middle East and South America. If you elect us, we will do the following three things: We will begin to tap America’s vast oil reserves, using technological drilling advances that protect the environment. We will also promote alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power, to move us away from an oil-based economy. Finally, we will eliminate barriers to the import of cheaper, more efficient automotive systems that have been successful in other parts of the world.”
If the Republicans agree on such a platform, 2008 could be their year after all.