CRESPO: Time to shake up Capitol Hill

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Republicans have good reason to be optimistic about the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Democrat triumvirate of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid has enraged much of the voting public with its radical, far-left-wing agenda to “fundamentally transform” America.

Reckless out-of-control spending, ballooning deficits, a mushrooming national debt, an expansive and overreaching federal government and countless abuses of power at home, coupled with weakness, apologies and appeasement abroad, have quickly turned most Americans against the Democratic supermajority in Washington. Recent Republican victories in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, seem to point to a Republican sweep in the fall.

But Republicans should not get too comfortable or assume that victory will be automatic or easy. The American people are weary and cynical. As recently as 2006, the people voted out the previous Republican majority in Congress because it had abandoned its conservative principles inspired by Ronald Reagan and outlined in the Contract With America. This year, voters are looking for outsiders, fighters and reformers, not politics as usual. That’s why the GOP must go beyond its outdated playbook in this year’s primaries in order to ensure the best chance for victory in November.

If the GOP is to prevail in 2010 it must embrace fresh, principled conservative, reform-minded candidates, not the stale, lobbyist-financed, establishment insiders and party machine politicos it too often anoints. If Republicans present the voters only with the same old, tired faces or retread local career politicians they may find themselves still in the minority after the general election, or in a worse position in 2012.

As I travel around my large and diverse Florida district I am reminded that voters are angry not just at Democrats, but at the entire political establishment for many reasons, including taking the nation to the brink of an economic debacle. While most believe President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are guilty of most of the reckless spending and fiscal irresponsibility we are now facing, many voters still recall how the previous GOP majority also failed to control Washington’s free-spending ways.

Many Americans also feel that Congress and the political class in general have lost touch with the people they were elected to represent; that our representatives have come to resemble a new type of aristocracy living in an insulated bubble paid for by the overtaxed small-business owner and working-class citizen. Voters watch in disgust as our representatives hold votes in the middle of the night and make secret backroom deals. Today, Washington seems more disconnected than ever from Main Street.

This frustration is fueling the Tea Party movement, which is forcing the Republican Party back to its core constitutionalist principles and inspiring contested primaries to pump new blood into the system. Anti-incumbent sentiment and distrust toward all professional, career politicians is at an all-time high. As London’s Telegraph noted, “Many voters yearn for an outsider, someone with authenticity, integrity and proven accomplishment. Someone who has not spent their life plotting how to ascend the greasy pole, adjusting every utterance for maximum political advantage.”

The voters want someone to go to Washington and shake things up, not just go along to get along. They want someone who will fight for them, not for the lobbyists and special interests. Fortunately, there are a number of genuine conservative Republican outsiders running this year, including several military veterans, who, like me, see this as a mission, not a career.

Most voters I meet respond enthusiastically to my military service. More than once I have been met with, “Oh, you’re not a career politician andyou were a Marine. You’ve got my vote.” The GOP should back more qualified, conservative veterans who are running for office for the first time.

Democratic arrogance and overreach has opened the door for the Republican Party to retake Washington in November by passionately advocating individual liberty, free markets and minimal government intrusion. The voters also want fresh, new principled leaders willing and able to defend the Constitution, traditional American values and hold government accountable.

But be warned: Unless the GOP backs outsiders, fighters and reformers with no compromising ties to lobbyists or the establishment, the door could be closed just as quickly as it was opened.

Paul Crespo, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, is running for U.S. Congress as a Republican in Florida’s 25th District.

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