The national Republican Party needs a revival. It needs a renewed focus on its animating objectives. Specifically, the Congressional Republicans have lost much of the revolutionary zeal that brought the party to majority status in Congress and have become too satisfied with simply being a majority. As a result, they have grown afraid to take strong stands for fear of losing power.
They have grown accustomed to bloated budgets and pork-barrel spending. Those within the party that do call for tighter controls are rarely paid any heed. The smaller, leaner government the Congressional GOP campaigned for in 1994 has yet to materialize, and lately is less often fought for. It seems that Bill Clinton’s pronouncement during his 1995 State of the Union that the “era of big government is over” was premature.
The fact is that the Republicans campaigned and won power in 1994 on an agenda that represented strong stands on high profile issues, proving that the public will be responsive when such stands are taken. The “Contract With America” represented a bold conservative agenda aimed at reforming the business-as-usual government mindset of tax and spend, and reducing the excessive regulatory burdens on our society. While that agenda was readily ratified by the public it has been largely forgotten or set aside by the GOP leadership.
Now the leadership is in need of a revival of sorts. Like the backsliding church member who finds conviction when he realizes how far off the straight and narrow he has wandered, the party needs to rededicate itself to its fundamental principles. It needs to follow Ronald Reagan’s admonition to paint in bold colors, not pale pastels, and lay out a strong agenda on the critical issues of our day, not simply try to skate through the next election on the strength of the national security issue alone. It needs a return to the spirit of ’94.
While national security and the War on Terror are critical issues to be sure, and likely to be at the top of every voter’s list of concerns, they are not the only issues, or even the only important issues in terms of our nation’s long term health and survival.
Runaway growth in entitlement programs threatens to overwhelm our nation’s resources. Without serious structural reform, Social Security promises to touch off an inter-generational tax war in our country. Our tax system itself, the likes of which is being rejected in second and third world countries and some former communist countries, impedes our nation’s economic growth. Illegal immigration is fast becoming a plague on our country, both culturally and financially. Three-hundred thousand illegals every year attest to the fact that our southern border is a joke.
Our country has major issues that need to be addressed, and the public is looking for someone with ideas and the conviction to carry them out. They want leaders, not politicians. That’s what they supported overwhelmingly in 1994 and the GOP should put forward a bold agenda to give voters a reason to do so again.
If we’re worried about winning another election, why not focus on winning it with the ideas that delivered one of the most stellar victories in our country’s electoral history?
The fact is that conservatives of all stripes, whether social, economic or religious, are the heart of the Republican Party. Without them, there is no money, no volunteers and no victory. They need to stand up and remind the Congressional leadership of those facts and demand a return to first principles and the adoption of a unifying agenda centered on bold conservatism, not the pale pastels of pragmatism and re-electionism.
The American people should know that our party will support policies to set our country’s financial house in order. That it will support real tax reform that will unleash the awesome potential of our economy by freeing businesses and families of the regressive effects of “progressive” taxation. They should know our party will continue to stand boldly for judges that will interpret and apply our Constitution as it was written, and not assume the mantle of super-legislators. We should proudly proclaim that our party will protect our borders not just from terrorists, but from waves of illegal immigrants – and will punish those who facilitate such lawlessness.
We need an agenda that boldly addresses the concerns of those who wish to see their faith honored, not chased from the public square. And agenda that stands up for the traditional definition of marriage and supports its codification in our Constitution. We should champion families who want better educational choices for their children, and not be concerned about whether the teacher’s unions approve. In short, we should be bold.
In 1994, conservatives were on a mission. A mission centered on a clearly articulated issue based agenda. There was excitement, anticipation and motivation. Now, we need a revival. Our leaders need to meander down to the tent meeting and get a dose of conviction and rededicate themselves to our first principles.