Humanity is tormented once again by an age-old issue—is man to live in dignity and freedom under God or be enslaved—are men in government to serve, or are they to master, their fellow men?
It befalls us now to resolve this issue anew—perhaps this time for centuries to come. Nor can we evade the issue here at home. Even in this Constitutional Republic, for two centuries the beacon of liberty the world over, individual freedom retreats under the mounting assault of expanding centralized power. Fiscal and economic excesses, too long indulged, already have eroded and threatened the greatest experiment in self-government mankind has known.
We conservatives claim no monopoly of love of freedom. But we challenge as unwise the course the leadership of both political parties have charted; we challenge as dangerous the steps they plan along the way; and we deplore as self-defeating and harmful many of the moves already taken.
Dominant in their council are leaders whose words extol human liberty, but whose deeds have persistently delimited the scope of liberty and sapped its vitality. Year after year, in the name of benevolence, these leaders have sought the enlargement of Federal power. Year after year, in the guise of concern for others, they have lavishly expended the resources of their fellow citizens. And year after year freedom, diversity, and individual, local and state responsibility have given way to regimentation, conformity, and subservience to central power.
We conservatives hold that a leadership so misguided weakens liberty in America and the world. We hold that the glittering enticements so invitingly proffered the people, at their own expense, will inevitably bring disillusionment and true disappointment in place of promised happiness. Such leaders are Federal extremists—impulsive in the use of national power, improvident in the management of public funds, thoughtless as to the long-term effects of their acts on individual freedom and creative, competitive enterprise. Men so recklessly disposed cannot be safely entrusted with authority over their fellow citizens.
To conservatives, liberty is still today man’s most precious possession. For every citizen, and for the generations to come, we conservatives vow that it shall be preserved.
I did not write the six paragraphs above. I changed only five words. I changed, in each instance, the word “Republicans” to the word “conservatives” and I changed the word “Democrats” to “leadership of both political parties”. The above six paragraphs were the preamble to the 1964 Republican Party Platform, prepared for the convention at which the GOP would nominate Barry Goldwater.
So much of the 1964 party platform rings true today. Consider also this:
This Administration has exploited interracial tensions by extravagant campaign promises, without fulfillment, playing on the just aspirations of the minority groups, encouraging disorderly and lawless elements, and ineffectually administering the laws.
It has subjected career civil servants and part-time Federal employees, including employees of the Agriculture Department, to political pressures harmful to the integrity of the entire Federal service. It has weakened veterans’ preference in Federal jobs.
It has made Federal intervention, even on the Presidential level, a standard operating practice in labor disputes, thus menacing the entire system of free collective bargaining.
It has resorted to police state tactics, using the great power of Federal Departments and agencies, to compel compliance with Administration desires, notably in the steel price dispute. The Department of Justice, in particular, has been used improperly to achieve partisan political, economic, and legislative goals. This abuse of power should be the subject of a Congressional investigation.
It has aggravated the problems of small business by multiplying Federal record-keeping requirements and has hurt thousands of small businessmen by forcing up their costs.
This Administration has curtailed, through such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board, the simple, basic right of Americans voluntarily to go into or to go out of business.
This Administration has adopted the policies of news management and unjustifiable secrecy, in the guise of guarding the nation’s security; it has shown a contempt of the right of the people to know the truth.
It was important, for purposes of this, to substitute “conservatives” for “Republicans” because the Republicans of today have been complicit in the growth and expansion of the federal government. Consider, for example, this portion of the 1964 Republican Platform:
This Administration has violently thrust Federal power into the free market in such areas as steel prices, thus establishing precedents which in future years could critically wound free enterprise in the United States.
George Bush did that with steel tariffs in Pennsylvania as a raw political calculation to win Pennsylvania for the GOP, which John Kerry won anyway.
With the exception of 1980, Republicans have continuously nominated individuals who claim to be heirs of Reagan and, thus, Goldwater while really being heirs of Nelson Rockefeller. Unfortunately for the GOP, as it has grown more and more prone to government intervention and continues to grow the size and scope of the federal government, its base has thought it was electing leaders who actually believed the Republican Platform. With the growth of talk radio and the internet, it is harder and harder to keep the base ignorant of its leadership’s machinations.
In my twenty years actively in Republican politics, I have never seen the murmuring discontent of the base as loud as it is now. Certainly it goes through phases and, historically, this is most akin to the situation in the mid-70’s for the Republican Party as conservatives were ascending again after the Goldwater collapse and Nixon reemergence. Currently, the general sense of grievance and betrayal is as great or greater than at that time.
More troubling, a number of the voices of the GOP who stood with Reagan have turned to be table scrap moocher of the resurgent Rockefeller wing that the Establishment has become. They use the means of government to prop up interests who benefit them politically as opposed to disentangling government from business and allowing individuals and small businesses the liberty of self-governance free from interference. Then they hide behind their former proximity to Reagan as a shield to their current complacency, corruption, and condescension toward the values Reagan extolled and the base supports.
But this does not have to be the case. The era of big government returned with Barack Obama. The people clearly forgot why it was so bad. They have now tasted again that which prior generations rejected and they too are rejecting it. They are rejecting crony capitalism, though there is a danger they reject capitalism altogether because of it. They have rejected big government and there is a growing, palpable sense that they may reject government altogether for anarchy or complacency. They have rejected government intervention, but they may reject intervention even to protect us from our enemies.
Only Republicans can paint a vision away from what the nation is rejecting, but also away from larger and more calamitous rejections. But only Republicans not entangled in Washington can do that. The base of the party, which remains more conservative than the funders, bundlers, and leaders of the party, will have a say in the new Presidential nominee.
It is my hope that all parts of the party might find a common person around whom they all can rally. My great fear is that, should the base feel again as if its nominee is picked for them, there will be no base come Election Day 2016 in sufficient numbers to ward off a Democrat. “I’ll stay home,” has been an oft-repeated and entirely idle threat voiced by an aggrieved few in each election. But the aggrieved few keep growing in number with more and more legitimate grievances.
That is why I hope to see all the Republican Presidential candidates in Atlanta for the RedState Gathering on August 6, 7, and 8th. I want to give them all, from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz, a chance to paint their vision of the country. What should it look like after four years of their President with 2020 foresight, as that will be the year they seek re-election. What will government’s role be in our lives? What will be the balance between Main Street and Wall Street. If they can sell the base, coming in with all their preconceived notions on the candidates and various concerns, they will go a long way toward solidifying the party.
I invite the candidates to come to Atlanta, with minimal Obama bashing and platitudes, and tell us not on which nuances of 50 point plans they disagree with each other, but by what unique measures will we head into 2020 evaluating their re-election, should they be successful in 2016. Republicans have an opportunity to paint a picture and share their individual visions for the future of this country.
I believe the base of the Republican Party and its leaders can unite. I believe that unity can be on common ground. And most importantly, I believe that unity can be found in favor of something and someone and not just against Barack Obama. I look forward to hearing the candidates’ visions for the future and I pray we can avoid the perpetual Groundhog Day politics of the intra-Republican fights.