Well folks, I’ve been absent for almost two months now, and I realize I’m way overdue to post something new here. Frankly, the final days of the presidential campaign were so utterly hopeless from my perspective, there wasn’t much fight in me. But now that we have a new president-elect, an emerging Cabinet, and a truly ominous Congressional leadership, it’s time to start talking about ideas.
Because it’s ideas that have been missing from the Republican Party for some time now. Sure, the winners of individual campaigns harken back to “conservative values” and “Reagan’s principles,” but a near-majority of voters today couldn’t have voted for Reagan, and they weren’t alive when Goldwater emerged as the first conservative candidate. “Conservatism” is a rather amorphous brand, particularly when President Bush has used its mantle to radically expand Medicare and argue in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens. When “conservative” Republicans in Congress preside over the largest expansion of the federal budget since the New Deal — and that was BEFORE the bailouts of 2008 — it’s hard to say that the word means much more than “whatever business wants.”
And that’s precisely why Republicans and conservatives are losing elections. Democrats and liberals have successfully painted conservatives as mindlessly pro-Big Business. They’ve tried to do this for decades, of course, but it only began to stick when conservatives abandoned their principles. When you don’t stand for anything, all the public can do is look at who you’re standing with. In Republicans’ case, it was K Street (courtesy of Tom DeLay), Keystone Kops (much of the Bush Administration), and crooks (Stevens, Abramoff, et. al.).
The conservative brand should be about individual liberty, constitutionally-limited government, fiscal restraint, and responsible governance. Those principles are timeless, applicable to any number of problems facing this country. And while they are “Reaganite,” it no longer benefits Republicans to harken back to an era whose challenges are no longer our challenges. Calvin Coolidge supported limited government — do we invoke his name in support of a balanced budget amendment?
Obviously, there is political value in having accessible historic touchstones like Reagan, who inspire voters and provide a measuring stick for existing policies. But his policies just aren’t our policies in many respects. Reagan did very little on health care, but no political party can say it is seriously attempting to tackle America’s challenges without acknowledging a need for health care reform. To devise that policy, is the question, “What would Reagan do?” No — it’s “which policy maximizes freedom, limits the role of government, saves money, and can be administered responsibly over the long term?” Note that this question is NOT a political one. If you have the right principles and model your proposals based on those principles, the political support will follow. If, instead, you chase political power by dishing out what you think the people want (or need), you’ve already got a political party. It’s the other one.
Thus, this blog will spend the coming days proposing a few (we’ll see if I can do 10) agenda items that seek to apply those principles to the challenges facing our country. These efforts will be interspersed by frantic trips to the mall and Christmas celebrations, so check in every now and then.