November 11, 2005

How Deep is their Conservatism?

Marc Comtois

To build on Justin's latest post, I'd point you to John Hinderaker's post in which he boils down what has happened to the Republicans over the last year and asks why they appear so weak-kneed:

So what has happened in the past twelve months to terrify so many of our Republican office-holders? Two hurricanes struck, and some observers accused a federal agency of responding too slowly to one of them. Tom DeLay was indicted, in what was basically a bad joke, by an absurdly partisan and utterly discredited Texas Democrat DA. An aide to the Vice President has been accused of lying to a grand jury about telling the truth to the press about a mountebank Democrat's lies about the administration. And the President's poll ratings--more or less irrelevant, given that he can't run for office again--have dropped into a range occupied, at one time or another, by every President from Lyndon Johnson to the present.

These are pathetic reasons for our representatives in Congress to be in a Chicken Little mode. The Republicans are rapidly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it's hard to say who is more to blame--the Congressional Republicans, some of whom are afraid of their own shadows, or the White House, which, in studiously refraining from responding to the most outrageously unfair and blatantly partisan attacks launched against an American administration in 145 years, seems intent on a weird kind of martyrdom.

It's no wonder that Republicans across the country increasingly regard their elected representatives as gutless wonders. There is no objective reason why 2006 should be a disaster for the party, but it will be if our representative don't stick together and show the voters that the Republican party still stands for security, common sense and limited government. That's still a winning combination, but only if our representatives vote for it.

Too many elected Republicans--caught in the Beltway echo chamber and desirous of making everyone (the media) happy--seem to believe that they are in a weaker position than they actually are. They seem to have forgotton that they control both Houses and the Presidency. They are sacrificing their conservative principles because they believe that backing off of same will give them some sort of relief. But it won't and they should know better. Instead, it makes them appear weak and able to be bullied. But their actions do more than betray a lack of faith in their purported conservative principles. They also indicate that, in fact, there may be quite a few more rhetorical than ideological conservatives in the Republican party.

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By definition those who hold legislative office tend to be followers, not leaders.

The main problem is that we haven't had a true Republican President / Leader since Reagan.

Bush Sr. was the national version of Linc Almond - nice guys but mostly occupying space, not leaders - and philosophically were essentially "moderate Democrats."

George W. is much the same, albeit more conservative on moral (not government issues). As for leadership, good with military issues (as was his father) but missing in action otherwise.

If we had a real leader like Reagan, an unapologetic conservative, the Republicans would fall in line (not that I'm excusing their timidity, even betrayal, of recent years).

Posted by: Tom W at November 11, 2005 10:09 AM

Tom W.

I guess I might just have to run for President.

Posted by: Fred on the Blog at November 11, 2005 9:24 PM

Tom W.

I guess I might just have to run for President.

Posted by: Fred on the Blog at November 11, 2005 9:24 PM

I agree with Tom in his assessments. Ronald Reagan was the epitome of what a conservative Republican should be. People like Reagan, unfortunately, sometimes only come around once in a lifetime. Not to deride any of the other occupants of the White House since Reagan (except of course, Clinton), but we will be truly fortunate to see his likeness there again, at least anytime soon.

He was a man of principle, but pragmatic. He understood that 85% of something is a lot better than 100% of nothing -- and once you've gotten the 85%, continue to work incrementally to get the other 15% over time. He was able to work well with others, including people that didn't always, and in many cases, often disagreed with him. He hated no one, except those who use their power to repress others. He saw liberals as merely misguided, not evil. His conservativism was "compassionate," in that it was based in the belief in the power of the individual to make decisions, better than government bureaucrats.

He was always optimistic, and was occassionally derided by some for it. However, he understood the world as it is: that there is real "good" and that there is real "evil." He didn't believe that one wins by compromising with evil, or by abandoning principle, but by confronting evil and standing on principle, regardless of the temporary political costs (GWB understands that, too). Because of that sunny optimism, he also realized that one doesn't need to accept things as they are, but instead, focused on how they can be. One of my favorite Reagan quotes: "I do not believe in a fate that will happen to us no matter what we do, however, I do believe in a fate that will happen to us if we do nothing."

Most importantly, he understood that the greatest threat to human liberty was unrestrained and unaccountable government, whether it be foreign or domestic. He said, and real conservatives do still agree with him: "Government is not the solution to our problems; government IS the problem!"

As most people who know me know, I've idolized and studied Ronald Reagan my entire life (literally since I was 4), and I've tried to follow his example, though I've often fallen short. The important part is, I try. My only wish is that politicians, esp. those who call themselves "Republicans," (hint, hint) would just stand on principle, and more importantly stop trying to reinvent the wheel. All they need to do is to follow his great example.

Posted by: Will at November 12, 2005 2:02 AM

Absolutely agree!
Real leaders like Reagan are hard to find and unfortunately very few and far between.
A big problem for Bush in Washington is the lack of toughness among the Republican leaders in Congress.
Bill Frist?
Give me a break!
But fear not because the basic politcal philosophy of conservatism is a winner throughout the land.
Just need leaders to will stay on message and not back down.
Democrats may win a few seats on the fringe because of the President's troubles but this nation is leaning right politically and that's not going to change.

Posted by: Tim at November 12, 2005 8:01 AM

>>I guess I might just have to run for President.

Fred on the Blog, you have my vote! ;)

Posted by: Tom W at November 12, 2005 9:09 AM

Remember that Ronald Reagan was president at a time when the GOP could only dream of being in the majority. The GOP now is the majority.

Reagan would be the first to agree that once you have put yourself in a superior position, you no longer can be a "bomb thrower" but instead must govern.


Despite castigating the Soviet Union as an "Evil Empire", he managed to develop the closest relationship with a Soviet leader of any American president during the entire Cold War period.

Although attacked by Democrats, he managed to build a personal and working relationship with Tip O'Neill, perhaps his toughest adversary.

Before becoming President, Reagan had one of the best relationships with the Democrats in the CA state legislature, of any California governor.

Reagan realized that criticizing other Republicans was self-destructive. It was the reason he was able to get along with virtually everyone in the Republican party.

It's not that legislators are necessarily "followers", it's just that legislators must compromise to achieve a consensus and bring about progress. Otherwise, we would have total gridlock. Presidents and governors, as chief executives, do not face the same hurdle. Reagan had great success in part because he had guys like Bob Dole watching out for him in the Senate.

Just some thoughts.

Posted by: Anthony at November 14, 2005 1:44 PM