Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Row to Hoe: Why Doing it Right is Hard, but Necessary

(Article: Killing the GOP Brand by Mac Johnson, courtesy The American Thinker, archived here, sorry for the broken link!)

This article is so on the mark, so pithily written, so correct that I want to staple a copy, text-in, to the forehead of every member of the House that voted against Mike Pence and John Shadegg. Read it. Please.

Back? Great. I've been doing a lot of thinking in recent weeks about where politics has gone over the past decade or so, and I've come to the conclusion, along with Rabbi Aryeh Spero, that one of the major problems Republicans have (and they are legion, and largely self-inflicted) is that we've chosen to play the Democrats', the liberals' game of pandering, big-government influence-peddling. Problem is, we stink on ice at it, and have rightly been ushered out of office by an electorate that remembers the Reagan years as the lifting of a musty, moldy veil of malaise from our faces.

The name of Reynaldus Magnus has been invoked a lot of late, but not without good reason. Reagan was far from perfect (as regards illegal-immigrant amnesty, for example), but what was best about his presidency was his unrelenting optimism. The stories he told (and sold, wonderfully) to the American people were beautiful ones, from the idea of its being morning in America to that compelling symbol of a shining city on a hill.

Ronald Reagan managed to present, in that broad-shouldered, cowboy-hatted, avuncular way, an image of that ancient oxymoron the trustworthy politician. I have no illusions that he was any more a saint than I am, but he was a damned sight better than the Republican or Democrat Congressional leadership of the day, and he honestly reduced taxes, strove for reduction in the nonmilitary size of government, prosecuted the defense of the Union from enemies both foreign and domestic, and most importantly put forth the idea that America is good, that unalloyed American ideals are good, that jingoistic faith in God and country are good.

And it worked: the U.S. bootstrapped itself out of the shamefaced "put on a sweater and let's tune in the hostage crisis" Carter years. The Reagan years, and policies arising from them (RIP Milton Friedman, by the way), unleashed the United States in myriad ways, leading to the longest, best period of economic expansion we've ever experienced. Think the productivity and dot-com booms of the 90s would have happened with any remnant of the tax structure and stagflation of the '70s? Think stock prices would have rebounded from 9/11 in five short years? Americans benefited, America benefited and the world benefited, both from the unbelievable wealth that resulted (and couldn't help spilling over our borders), and from the fall of Soviet Communism, having been outevolved and outspent into collapse.

Put simply, Reagan wrecked the curve for all would-be lazy Republicans after him. What the United States wants and demands from the Republican party is what it's wanted ever since: laissez-faire capitalism; muscular defense; government constrained by the unfashionable principle that rights are God-given and otherwise "Congress shall make no law"; and finally, that infectious, melt-the-heart, fire-the-soul Reaganite optimism.

Measured against that yardstick, very few GOP politicos make the grade. Even with an understanding and patient Republican base (after all, how many real Reagans can a nation expect in a lifetime?), Republicans in office from W down managed to cover themselves and their principles with sufficient mud to render themselves electorally indistinguishable from Democrats. And here we are.

The world is burgeoning with threats again, from unsophisticated threats like the encroachment of liberalism to Gordian knots like the Global War on Terrorism and the impending demographic collapse of Europe. A little infectious avuncular optimism might go a long way, right about now.


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