Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

GOP must get past Reagan

February 13, 2008


This just in: Ronald Reagan is dead and he's not coming back. Now, can conservatives please move on?

Reagan always spoke about the future and its possibilities. Today's conservatives, however, can't seem to break with the past and the nostalgia for the Reagan years. Even in his letter to the American people in 1994 in which he revealed he suffered from Alzheimer's disease, Reagan wrote of his "eternal optimism" for the country's future. Too many modern conservatives seem embedded in a concrete slab of pessimism, preferring to go over a bridge and drown rather than "compromise" their "principles." If you can't get elected, your principles can be talked about on the lecture circuit but are unlikely to be adopted in Washington.

John McCain, some say, is not a true conservative. Was Reagan? Reagan campaigned as a tax cutter. He cut taxes, but he also raised them. He promised conservative judges and spoke of his opposition to abortion, yet named two justices to the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy) who voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. Against the advice of some, Reagan deployed Marines to Lebanon and saw them murdered by a homicide bomber. Reagan engaged in an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. As president, Reagan seldom went to church, unlike his evangelical base. If conservatives knew in advance these things about Reagan, would they have voted for him in such numbers?

Contemporary conservatism has mostly been about saying "no" to the liberal agenda. Suppose conservatives instead begin to circumvent liberals by applying better ideas to achieve ends liberals and conservatives claim to seek?

This is the point of David Frum's new book, "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again." Frum, a former speechwriter in this Bush administration, believes the issues that brought Republicans to power in the 1980s and '90s are different from the concerns of most Americans today. That hasn't stopped Republicans and conservatives from resurrecting what worked before: taxes, guns and promises to restore "traditional values," things that are beyond the power of politicians. As we've seen in both parties, politicians have trouble imposing morality on themselves. Why do we suppose them capable of imposing such "values" (don't they really mean "virtues"?) on the citizenry?

Frum proposes an agenda that uses conservative principles to actually solve, rather than just talk about, serious problems. He wants universally available health insurance, but offered through the private sector; lower taxes to encourage savings and investment, but higher taxes on energy and pollution to promote conservation; a conservative environmentalism that promotes nuclear power to reduce our need for oil and coal (this would satisfy the Left's misguided belief in "global warming," while simultaneously pleasing the Right by freeing us from dependence on foreign oil); federal policies to encourage larger families; major reductions in unskilled immigration; a campaign for prison reform and a campaign against obesity; higher ethical standards inside the conservative movement and Republican Party; and a renewed commitment to expand and rebuild the armed forces in order to crush terrorism and prepare for the coming challenge from China.

I would add a micro-loan program to help the poor out of poverty, rather than more government programs that subsidize the poor in their poverty and offer no hope for the future.

Conservatives also need to do a better job of storytelling. They should celebrate people who have overcome poverty and hopelessness as examples to others. It is not enough for conservatives to advocate for lower taxes and smaller government if the purpose is for Americans to acquire more money and material goods. Americans already have so much they are renting storage units in which to place the overflow. Imagine the economic - even spiritual - revival that might occur if conservatives "adopted" one person or family and made it their goal to help them improve their lives. There are few thrills greater than seeing a life transformed in which you have played a part.

Reducing the "need" for government would shrink its size and cost. It also would pay political dividends for conservatism and the Republican Party.

If conservatives really want to win, they will adopt new ideas based on old principles. Conservatives are in danger of losing the coming election and future ones because they have not reinvented themselves for a new era. Liberal ideas mostly don't work. Conservatives must demonstrate to voters their ideas do.

- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


BigAl 10 years, 1 month ago

Ronald Reagan sold/traded arms with our enemy, he raised taxes and tripled our debt. Family farms folded at an alarming rate and the US had an extremely high rate of bankruptcies during the Raegan years. He was a true conservative.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

Like Obama, Reagan gave good speech. Beyond that, most of his accomplishments were myths. I did like him though, at first.

ontheotherhand 10 years, 1 month ago

wow. I actually agreed with a lot of what Cal Thomas said today. Is the world coming to an end? His assessment of Reagan was pretty accurate, but I have never heard an ultra-conservative make these statements before. Luckily, Thomas was back to his old self by the end of the editorial so I realized that the stars are indeed aligned correctly.

Mkh 10 years, 1 month ago

"When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye."

-- Barry Goldwater

Mkh 10 years, 1 month ago

"I'm not saying that "liberal ideas" always work, but haven't we just had 7 years of "conservative demonstration"?

How'd that turn out?"

Scene, we've had a lot of things in the past 7 years...but I wouldn't call anything Bush did as "conservative"...he's a big government totalitarian...thought that was obvious by now.


Paul R Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

Bill Maher was on Larry King the other evening. He had a good line......"Why don't we just dig him up and bring the coffin to the Republican Convention?" I agree with Cal, the R's need to get over it and move on. Each era is unique, and we have way too many big issues to tackle to waste time on who is the "new" Ron Reagan.

Mkh 10 years, 1 month ago

I it doesn't matter what someone does, just what they call themselves.

Nice one there.

salad 10 years, 1 month ago

Compared to the current occupant and his ilk, Regan seems positivly liberal.

Corey Williams 10 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, because Reagan had nothing at all to do with Iran Contra...selling weapons to those pesky Iranians (and weren't those weapons used in Beirut?)...taking Saddam off the list of countries that support terrorism so that he could get loans for military goods...sending Rummy to Iraq with golden spurs for Saddams boots...skyrocketing debt...

It was mourning in America

Corey Williams 10 years, 1 month ago

I didn't know that Bill was a "a serial rapist". Of course, I thought we would never elect another president as stupid as Reagan. But then Bush got in there twice.

And if the rest of the world is confused how Reagan, Clinton, and Bush could all have such horrible records, then all they have to do is look at the UK and see how many times Thatcher/tories/new labour was elected.

Corey Williams 10 years, 1 month ago

I didn't know that Bill was a "a serial rapist". Of course, I thought we would never elect another president as stupid as Reagan. But then Bush got in there twice.

And if the rest of the world is confused how Reagan, Clinton, and Bush could all have such horrible records, then all they have to do is look at the UK and see how many times Thatcher/tories/new labour were (and will be again) elected.

ontheotherhand 10 years, 1 month ago

Ok, r_t, here is an example of you trying to rewrite history (a while back you asked me to give you an example of when you did that, and I promised I would call you on it the next time I saw you do it).

First, Clinton is not a serial rapist. He is someone whom you strongly detest because he is a democrat. He was very stupid to mess around with Monica Lewinski. But he is not a serial rapist, unless you happen to define all guys who cheat on their wives--and then lie about it--as serial rapists. If you do that, I'll bet you don't have a lot of friends. :)

Second, not all conservatives and/or Republicans revere Reagan; many were very upset with his covert operations with the contras as well as his selling arms to Iraq (remember Ollie North?). Now, before you get tempted to list everything you hate about Bill Clinton, just remember that I merely pointed out where you have rewritten history in your post. I don't know how old you were in the 80s, but I was already an adult and I can remember being very embarrassed and ashamed by what Reagan did (see two examples above). To make matters worse, he lied about what he did. (This is not me blowing air, btw; it is very well-documented.)

Have I been ashamed/embarrassed with respect to all presidents since Reagan? Absolutely! But I would never insult our online readers by trying to rewrite what happened during the Reagan presidency. (And I am not going to rewrite Clinton/Bush/GW histories, either, so you don't need to launch into a diatribe about their presidencies.)

Ok, your turn. Only a thoughtful and intelligent response, please. Nothing superficial and no name-calling. :)

Bradley Klamm 10 years, 1 month ago

"'Reagan Skull Bag.' This handy Khmer Rouge carrying sack holds up to 25 skulls. The Skull Bag recognizes the Reagan administration's unstinting support for Pol Pot's assaults on Cambodians from 1981 to 1989, as well as Reagan's policy of recognizing the exiled Khmer Rouge at the U.N. as the legitimate government of Cambodia."

Yeah, Reagan was the second-coming, wasn't he?

Corey Williams 10 years, 1 month ago

All you have to do is realise that we haven't had a great president in a long time, much less a "good" president. There are those who use the word "great" in relation to Reagan, Clinton, and the second Bush and they are all wrong. Being lackluster in office is not something that sticks to one party or another.

ontheotherhand 10 years, 1 month ago

It's not a good answer if it's not true. :) I'm sorry to hear that your non-liberal friends are not reasonable. (big smile!)

Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

Recent developments in our perpetual war on evil:

1) Soldiers die as vital equipment money is stolen by Halliburton, where VP Cheney still draws a salary:

Halliburton charges millions to move empty trucks

--and steals food money from soldiers:

--and you will personally pay $4,000 for Halliburton's "services"

2) Rush Limbaugh's lies: POW treatment (a "good time") included "savage beatings", rape and murder:

48 POW murders currently under investigation:

3) Colin Powell says "Bush was fully informed of abuse" Stories reported to Bush and Rumsfeld as far back as January of last year.

4) Pentagon says Rumsfeld personally approved harsh interrogation techniques: Pentagon consultant: "You don't keep prisoners naked (and handcuffed) in their cell and then let them get bitten by dogs. This is sick."

5) DC is quietly reinstating the draft:

6) Bush Cartel's Top man in Iraq was a spy for Iran:

And before that, an embezzler:

7) DOD insider says CIA attempted to plant WMD in Iraq and was caught:

8) In his latest speech, Bush promised to bring further "freedom" to the "Ea-ra-keys" by -- wait for it -- building a new maximum security prison in place of the old one

But contrary to White House spin, Iraqis aren't at all happy about their >cough!< "liberation"... "They have destroyed everything....They are the terrorists" "Even Saddam wasn't as cruel as the Americans." ""The Americans must have no religion.... They worship force, not God."

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