September 26, 2008 11:00AM

The Revival of Small‐​Government Conservatism?

For nearly eight years, Republicans either looked the other way (or greedily joined in) as the Bush administration increased the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government. The largest increase in domestic discretionary spending since the Great Society, a massive new entitlement program, greater federal control over education — big‐​government conservatism was on the march with barely a squeak of protest.

But in proposing a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, the Bush administration may finally have found the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is years overdue, but congressional Republicans are finally learning to say “no.” And its not just the usual advocates of limited government like Rep. Mike Pence (R‑IN) who are outraged by the biggest government intervention in our economy since FDR. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R‑OH), who acquiesced to — even twisted arms to push through — every big‐​government proposal that the Bush administration wanted, has suddenly found a spine. Even such go‐​along, get‐​along Republicans as Sens. Richard Shelby (R‑AL) and Jim Bunning (R‑TN) have not been able to swallow this one. To hear Sen. Bunning describe the administration’s proposal as “socialism” is, well, amazing. 

Meanwhile, grass‐​roots activists and talk radio are in open rebellion. People are actually suggesting that government isn’t the solution, government is the problem. How long has it been since we’ve heard that around this town?

The Bush administration will probably succeed in pushing through their proposal. But if the bailout succeeds in finally reigniting the fires of small‐​government conservatism, it may be worth the price.