Breaking with a failed past is an American tradition—Republicans need only do it again. Job number one is to find and support new leadership. If anyone thinks the current crop of men and women holding office as Republicans is sufficient, please send me some evidence.
President Ronald Reagan succeeded and President George H.W. Bush failed. Speaker Newt Gingrichsucceeded and Speaker Dennis Hastert failed. President George W. Bush, like his father, accomplished a huge foreign policy success (Iraq in both cases) but failed to govern domestically as a conservative. And when you don’t stick with principles that work, you fail.
President George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” was, in the words of syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg,
“a rhetorical capitulation to Bill Clinton’s feel-your-pain political posturing and an embrace of the assumptions that have been the undergirding of liberalism since the New Deal. That is, the measure of one’s compassion is directly proportionate to one’s support for large and costly government programs.”
Bush, Goldberg explains, admitted as much to the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes in an interview back in 2003. Goldberg summed it up nicely:
“This wasn’t a philosophy of government as much as gooey marketing posing as principle. Ronald Reagan would have spontaneously burst into flames if he’d uttered such sentiments.”
“W’s” tax cuts should have been followed up with spending cuts or at the least spending restraint. But now that’s history.
The fact is we’ve yet to see a Republican leader succeed in governing to the degree that’s needed and possible. None of them, not even Reagan, set out to learn how to move public opinion on all fronts.
Republicans have flinched for decades when it came to the difficult necessity of winning public support for cutting programs, limiting spending, and shrinking government. They’ve rarely even tried.
Of course it goes beyond spending. Republicans have largely stood by while Federal Reserve policy has been creating economic bubbles (see article here).
Our federal government has been on many other wrong tracks as well, but that’s material for another column. To see the consequences of – shall we say “foolish” policy—watch this short video and this 30-minute video. We have a fiscal mess at the federal level and it will only be fixed by leaders willing to learn how to move public opinion in support of real solutions.
Instead of leaders, we’ve got a Congress full of mostly careerists. While the buck stops at the desk of those who are elected, equal blame is shared by staff. Reagan could’ve done more, and it’s quite obvious that Bush “41,” Gingrich, and Bush “43” were all ill-served by staff. You can’t expect the guy at the top to figure out everything all the time.
Current and future political “CEOs” on our side of the political spectrum had better figure out quickly that GOP platform principle based solutions must be constantly, aggressively, and effectively sold to the American public. If they’re not, than whoever is running for or holding office is wasting time and space.
That job starts at the state and local level. In Illinois, our 6,000+ units of local government need citizen oversight or they should be shut down. Our state government is doing its part to mirror the mismanagement at the federal level – if you doubt that, check out what Sheila Weinberg’s Truth in Accounting has outlined here, here, and here.
Now that we’ve outlined the entire ridiculous government-created fiscal mess from Illinois all the way to Washington, D.C., we get to the ultimate bottom line: this is a democracy and our Constitution begins with “We the People,” which means YOU.
Everyone must do their part to bring about a solution. Republicans in Illinois should engage in their local party, contribute financially, get involved in some other constructive manner, or simply enjoy the lousy government they’re getting.
If this sounds too mean, try these: You’re either with us or against us. You’re either a reformer or you’re an impediment. You’re either useful to the cause of good government or you’re not. And the “you” in those sentences doesn’t just apply to the elected officials. Every citizen of voting age shares equal responsibility.