Skip to comments.25 Years After Reagan: Where Does the GOP Stand?
Posted on 01/06/2006 10:01:10 AM PST by Reagan Man
Both major parties have been around so long that they exude the seedy, unmistakable odor of entrenched and callous old age. But in the eye (or nose) of public opinion ... the GOP unquestionably forged into a commanding lead in this unhappy respect.
Sounds familiar, right? Except this observation of the Republican Party was penned in 1975 by National Review editor and revolutionary thinker William Rusher in his critically acclaimed book, The Making of the New Majority Party. In the wake of Watergate and the unprecedented resignations of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and after Nixons successor, Gerald Ford, continued the pursuit of his predecessors liberal policies, the GOP had hit rock bottom by the time of the fall elections of 1974.
The GOP lost countless House and Senate seats and hundreds of state legislative races. In fact, the situation was so bad, the Democratic Party by January of 1975 had near or total control of 49 state governments. Only in Kansas did the GOP hold sway. With no money coming in, the Republican National Committee fired dozens of staffers and closed its headquarters in December of 1974 for three weeks, just to save on the electricity bill. The GOP was bankrupt in every sense of the word.
The Republican Party had lost its way and many, including Rusher, thought it would go the way of the Whigs, the GOPs political forefathers, because the Republicans, like the Whigs, had come to stand for nothing. The lessons of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt -- to challenge the status quo and never accept things as they are -- were lost on the party. Rusher, like many leading lights of the Conservative movement, thought that what was best was for the Republican Party to be replaced by a new, third political party, one that would draw in conservatives from both the Democratic Party and the GOP. Their idea made a great deal of sense, especially considering the fact that there were many right of center Democrats in those days and there was still the hangover of Reconstruction in the South, thus the phrase, Yellow Dog Democrat, meaning Southerners would rather vote for a yellow dog than a hated Republican.
Consequently, according to Rusher and others, there would evolve two parties of competing and not overlapping philosophies -- one party, the conservatives, would be suspicious of government and the other, the Democrats, would be the party of government. An honest choice for the American voter would be one happy byproduct.
The natural leader of the new party, everybody thought, was the wildly popular former governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Indeed, he did briefly flirt with the notion but later decided that hed already left one political party and he wasnt about to leave another. He was going to run for President and change the GOP at the same time.
The GOP, at the leadership level from the time of William Howard Taft up until Fords presidency, was a Tory-like party in which power flowed downward and the status quo was always defended. As an example, witness the aggressive posture of the Nixon White House when the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the media. The papers were all about the Kennedy and Johnson administrations conduct of the Vietnam War -- nothing about Nixon. Still, his staff went to battle stations to attack the media over the printing of the classified documents simply because the establishment was threatened.
Last month marked the 25 anniversary of the revolutionary election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The GOP has come along way at this silver anniversary. The party he inherited was adrift and badly in need of a vigorous message and courageous leadership. And Reagans sunny optimism, was not just about being a nice guy, it reflected his outlook for the future of America. It was a crucial part of his ideology.
Reagan, from 1975 to 1980, completed the process begun years earlier by Barry Goldwater by turning the GOP into an American brand of populist conservatism in which power flows upwards and the status quo is always questioned.
After the Gipper passed away in June of 2004, old Reagan hand Jeff Bell wrote in The Weekly Standard: Reagan invariably gravitated toward the aspects of American conservatism that were optimistic not cynical, populist not elitist, egalitarian, not hierarchical, moral not relativistic -- in short, what is distinctly American in American conservatism.
Unfortunately, the winning formulas of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan are becoming lost on the GOP of today. The beginning of the downfall of the Democrats began in 1965, when, at their apogee, they became the party of big government, tax cuts and corruption. Only Vietnam and Watergate staved off their eventual demise.
At the close of 2005, the GOP is fast becoming the party of big government, tax cuts and corruption. It is evolving back into a Tory party.
To wit, Reagan never would have called the Minutemen vigilantes as some in the GOP did after these citizens, angry at our porous borders, took it upon themselves to organize a volunteer patrol of the Mexican border. To Reagan, what these concerned Americans were doing was representative of individual initiative, much like a volunteer firefighter. Only those statists Republicans who called them vigilantes would presumably denounce a citizens arrest as well.
Meanwhile, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently ran ads attacking the conservative mayor of Cranston, R.I., because he has the temerity to consider a primary challenge to incumbent liberal Senator Lincoln Chaffee. Their actions may be unprecedented. The first rule of the bureaucracy -- any bureaucracy -- is to protect itself, and everybody understands that the party committees give money and support to incumbents. This is one thing. But it is quite another thing when those same committees engage in ad homonym attacks on a member of their own party.
In Virginia, the Democratic candidate for governor, Tim Kaine, supported local control by homeowners against unrestricted growth. The Republican candidate, Jerry Kilgore, in Mr. Jeffersons own backyard, opposed such local control, siding with the big developers. And some in the GOP are arguing for national identification cards. In the GOP, power is once again flowing downward.
Witness also, the unconscionable growth of government, all at the hands of total Republican control of the federal government and most is not attributed to national defense or the war on terror. Indeed, another GOP party committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, recently distributed a memo to congressmen urging they brag about the pork brought home to their districts. Only the grotesque amounts that were discussed for hurricane relief finally awakened the grassroots of the conservative movement, and not a minute too soon, to rise up in righteous indignation, demanding cuts in spending. Far be it from some conservatives to praise John McCain, but praise him they must for urging large cuts in the federal budget.
And where the Democrats had infamous symbols of greed and corruption in the form of Billy Sol Estes and Bobby Baker in the 1960s, the GOP can point to its own access sellers, lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Office of Management and Budget director David Safavian among others. The right of the citizenry to petition their government is an important part of the First Amendment and no real conservative would argue anything else. But the excesses of money and greed have led some in the party to abandon their core beliefs. Or worse, attempt to remake conservativism into something it is not.
The natural state of the modern conservative movement is to always be in a state of constant revolution -- so when they are called elitists it rankles because it is baseless. After all, we supported a guy who went to Eureka College for President.
When George Bush acts in a revolutionary manner, as in the case of tax cuts, or the war on terror or nominating John Bolton to the United Nations, or reforming Social Security, he is applauded by his base and his poll numbers were quite good in these instances, especially with the conservatives who dominate the party.
So when Bush chose Harriet Miers, it cut deeply with his biggest supporters because they know he is one of us -- and that he is deeply distrustful of the real elites who dominate Washington and much of American culture.
Bush is not alone in facing a revolt among his own people. Reagan sometimes acted in a pragmatic fashion too, and conservatives let him know of their displeasure. In this, though, Bush can take some solace. Conservatives angst is not personal. They desperately want Bush, the conservative, to succeed.
In many ways, the GOP has become a victim of its own successes, attracting new people who are interested in the party, not for reasons of ideology, but for reasons of money, access, power and fame. These statists are ironically taking the party back into the past -- exactly where Reagan never wanted it to go. Reagans banner of bold unmistakable colors is being struck and the party is running up a white bed sheet of surrender.
These insiders, few of which have ever read Free to Choose or Conscience of a Conservative are taking Reagans revolutionary party of the future, created within the framework of freedom, down the road to minority status once again.
For years, the mantra of the Democratic Party has been, give us power so we can do good things for you, an emotional appeal. The Republicans rejoined was, give us power, so we can give you more freedom, requiring an intellectual discipline. Clearly, this message of Reagans is becoming too difficult for some in todays Republican Party.
the GOP stands on one leg with it's proverbial head up its arse...
no pictues please. LOL
a new national conservative party is on the horizon...
no RINO's need apply!
I was rather hoping it was already in the harbor. We need to do something right away.
The GOP doesn't listen to folks like us, and most U.S. citizens are sheeple watching MSM for their "news" and opinion.
What do you suggest we do? and When?
Semper Fi, sir.
Unfortunately, I think that people like President Reagan are one of a kind.
I admire and respect President Bush very much, but could he not have taken a stronger stand against the NY Transit strikes than letting them talk things out (while New Yorkers slogged through snow and ice)?
What would President Reagan have done in a situation like that?
Ronald Reagan will be remembered as a great man and a great American leader who personified and advanced the highest ideals of the American people at home and abroad.
After eight years of his presidency, the communism of Soviet Russia was collapsing, the American military was rebuilt, the nations economy restored and its moral fabric renewed. As he said, himself, President Reagan left America "more prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years" earlier.
Many will remember him as the "Great Communicator".
But as the President said many times, he wasn't a great communicator, he communicated great things. Those were the traditional American values of this Midwesterner turned national leader. They came from the profound Christian faith inculcated into a young Dutch Reagan by his beloved mother Nelle and from his heart. And, as the President said, "they came from the heart of a great nation."
Those ideas were simple, straightforward and distinctly American. President Reagan believed that freedom depended on limited government. He fiercely advanced the principles of less government, less taxes, a strong military and a commitment to traditional moral values.
And President Reagan changed the course of my life. While youthful ambition led me to politics, it was the voice and values of Ronald Reagan that made me a Republican. The Bible says, "if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?"
Ronald Reagans gift was to sound a clear call to return our nation to the ideals of its founders. It was said that when the average American heard Reagan speak of those values, they didnt just agree. From coffee shops to tractor seats to carpeted offices, when most Americans heard Reagan speak they said, "darn right!"
I met President Reagan in the summer of 1988.
I was a 29 year-old candidate for Congress and he was winding down a presidency that changed the world.
It was a Candidate photo op in the Blue Room of the White House.
I was determined to say something of meaning to the great man.
So I looked him square in the eye, I told him I just wanted to "thank him for everything he had done for the country and everything he had done to inspire my generation to believe in America again".
He seemed surprised, his cheeks appeared to redden with embarrassment and he said, "Well, mike, thats a very nice thing of you to say"
Moments later in the Ballroom he took a minute to respond to my and others accolades with characteristic humility optimism saying,
"Many of you have thanked me for what I did for America but I want you to know I dont think I did anything for this country-the American people decided it was time to right the ship and I was just the captain they put on the bridge when they did it"
In the midst of his extraordinary gifts, Ronald Reagan was a deeply humble man who believed in God and the American people with an unshakable faith.
In his Farewell Address to the nation, President Reagan spoke poignantly of the distance that high office can place between the servant and the served. He said, "One of the things about the presidency is that you're always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass - the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn't return. And so many times I wanted to stop and reach out from behind the glass, and connect."
Well, permit me to say with affection-You did, Mr. President. And the free world, America and my small life are better for it.
And so, good-bye Mr. President. God bless you, as, through you, God blessed the United States of America.
Rep. Mike Pence
You're hereby put on notice, G.O.P. -
the Reagan-Conservatives are standing to not only be counted, but to take our place as true custodians of this Party!
The photo was a nice touch and brought back many memories of the great man thanks
The base has remained strong, active and ready to fight the lowlife lib scum. The elected Rs ( with a few exceptions) have turned their back on the base and turned into whiney spinless Monica Lewinsky wannabes.
One more squandered opportunity lost not to the hapless Rats, but rather because of the Hispandering GOP Big Tent of RINOs, liberals and moderates. Lack of resolve, failure to deliver on promises or a conservative agenda, and sabotage from within perpetrated by a handfull of RINO traitors.
And a president who talks smaller government but whose every action expands government.
Sempre Fi.....Its up to the base to keep the pressure on the spineless ones. Here in NC we have to worthless R senators. One is nothing less than a socialite(play on words) the other has a staffer prepare whiney form letters fr his signature.
"What would President Reagan have done in a situation like that?"
well we know Reagan fired the air traffic controllers when they went on strike but you know they were federal employees ...the clowns who went on strike in NY were state employees so it was reeeeeely up to Pataki...and you saw what he did...slept through the whole damn thing I think.LOL
my beef with GWB is the illegal immigration problem and the lack of border, airport(baggage, freight & food service) and seaport security.
If the GOP keeps advancing Democrat "lite" policies, don't be surprised if at some not too distant future date, a national "Conservative Party" becomes a reality.
It's going to be a difficult task for conservatives to find another Ronald Reagan to lead the Republican Party. And with PresBush and the GOP majority controlled Congress having promoted big governemnt Republicanism for the last five years, it doesn't look promising that the GOP has what it takes right now to advance the conservative agenda on into the future.
2008 could turn into a make or break year for the GOP. If the wrong candidate is chosen, large numbers of traditional conservatives might decide to break ranks with the GOP. From the looks of the political landscape today, they wouldn't be wrong in doing so. The current crop of Republican leaders need to be sent a strong message. They need to be told in no uncertain terms that conservatives don't support their agenda of liberal spending policies, expansion of government bureaucracy and opposition to immigration reform for illegal aliens.
The WOT will be a critical factor in the next 2-3 future Presidential elections, but conservatives should be confident that they'll find solid conservative candidates who not only believe in a strong defense for America, but also in fiscal responsibility.
well ya know we're in worse shape in CA...just like MA & NY;
we have Lefties in the Senate and a RINO for a governor, with a Leftie legislature...
like pissin' in the wind out here! LOL
I reluctantly agree. My (and the other's) approach seems to be not working very well, namely; grass roots awareness and activsim. Too bad, though.
yep, those days are lonnnnng gone
but witht the Internet and talk radio;
folks can still get their message out
but in the large states like CA,NY,TX,FL
one has to have a HUGE war chest to hit the airwaves!
Bump to self.....
Right. Planning a website and talk radio program as we speak. Wish me luck!
Conservatives angst is not personal
This is a big part of the problem. It needs to be personal. If your Senator, congressman, or whomever, votes for pork, or the infringment on personal freedoms, let them know that you'll not be supporting them ever again.
Only this time, have the balls to vote them out.
Look at your representitive's actions as if you were a truly independent voter and not a member of a party, you'll never hold your nose again.
R U planning on running for office?
If so where & what office?
and needless to say "GOOD LUCK!"
Quite simple. Nominate average joes for public office and work like hell to get them elected. If they won't listen, run them out on a rail.
I agree with you, except that this statement may be wishful. I hope you're correct, but the two "parties" are just two wings of one bi-factional party.
Sure, I know the objection: how can I say that when they go tooth and nail at each other? I can say it because the goal of both is to have permanent usufruct of government and increased state power.
Fighting is no reason to think they are opposed to the same overall goal. It's more like, say, the Ohio State--Michigan or the Texas--Oklahoma rivalries.
well like I said earlier, IMO, it will take a national figure running for governor of a large state and that person will have to have a HUGE war chest; just to get the ball rolling for a national conservative party.
South of the Border.
No, not running for office. Simply trying to "educate" the voters. I have worked for a few of our local (U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Sheriff, County Auditor, etc.) politicos.
I also run a video once a month at our public library, hand out pamphlets, work the fair booths, help sponsor a national speaker's bureau, organize our local letter writers, etc.
Just now working on getting our local website up, and have done some preliminary work on a talk radio show.
All for the purpose of combatting dumbness.
I know you, sir, and several other FReepers are on track, so when you see me write some critical statement, you should know it is not directed at you.
They don't stand at all. They skulk, cringe and cower.