DC Examiner - Republicans Must Fight for Freedom to Regain America's Trust
They say that elephants never forget, but that's exactly what the Grand Old Party has done.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, Rockefeller and Nixon Republicans kept the party in a seemingly permanent minority with a "me-too" philosophy that allowed Democrats to balloon the size and scope of government.
But, when Ronald Reagan ran unashamed on conservative principles in 1980 and Republicans in Congress embraced bold conservative reforms in 1994, America responded with overwhelming approval.
Since then, many Republicans have run for office as conservatives but governed as scandal-plagued big-spending moderates. They stopped offering common-sense solutions and broke promises with Americans by overspending and wasteful earmarking to special interests.
In the name of bipartisanship, our leaders supported amnesty, big new entitlements, more federal control of education, and compromises on energy. And too often Republicans shied away from defending values of life, family and faith.
The final straw for many was a series of Wall Street bailouts that cost over a trillion dollars and looked more like knee-jerk socialism than confident conservative leadership.
No wonder Republicans have lost a dozen Senate seats and nearly 50 House seats in two years.
Democrats will likely mistake Republican failures as a mandate for their liberal policies. Obama promises to "spread the wealth" and repeal all restrictions on abortion.
Nancy Pelosi wants trillions in new federal spending. Barney Frank promises higher taxes and massive military funding cuts. Harry Reid will kill the secret ballot for union elections. Patrick Leahy yearns to pack federal courts with activist judges who are hostile to traditional values.
Americans know little about these far left plans because Democrats didn't run on their liberal agenda, they ran against George Bush.
Yet, a strong majority of Americans are conservative and support the principles of freedom our nation was founded on.
The bipartisan Battleground Poll has found every year since 2002 that 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservatives and only 30 percent call themselves liberals. That's why Obama and the Democrats talked so much about conservative themes of tax cuts, spending restraint, second amendment rights and energy independence.
Americans haven't changed, Republicans have.
Recent Republican leaders said earmarks proved we could deliver for our districts and higher spending demonstrated our compassion. But a recent Club for Growth poll found that 66 percent of Americans favor candidates who will cut federal spending even if it means less local funding.
They said fighting for values that strengthen families and protect life is outdated, but ballot propositions to protect traditional marriage still pass overwhelmingly, most recently in California. Numerous polls on abortion reveal most Americans value life and want fewer abortions.
Republicans can regain America's trust only by acting on our conservative principles and offering real solutions.
First, we must lead by example and limit our own power in order to guard against corruption, starting with a unilateral, two-year earmark moratorium.
Then, let's end the seniority system that turns too many Republican outsiders into Washington insiders. This requires term limiting our conference leader and appropriations committee members, then choosing committee heads on merit, not seniority.
Second, Republicans must reestablish ourselves as the Party of Ideas with new, principled solutions for today's challenges. We offer more jobs, more take-home income, and more opportunity to succeed.
We offer more choices, personal control, and better quality in health care, education, and retirement. We offer more protection of life and the family, freedom of political speech, and respect for the right to bear arms. As global threats increase, Republicans offer a stronger national defense and secure borders.
Third, we must do everything in our power to stop President-elect Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid from enacting liberal policies that reduce freedom. Democrats and Republicans should work together, but not when it hurts the American people. As the minority, we don't control the Senate agenda, but we still have a moral responsibility to fight for freedom and liberty in our great country.
Finally, we must recruit new leaders. We're never going to reshape the way Americans see Republicans with the same old faces. There are good conservatives in Congress now, but our bench is not nearly as deep as the Democrats, who have plenty of career politicians.
We need more Sarah Palins - moms, dads, teachers, doctors and business owners who want to defend liberty and solve big problems, not become part of the Washington establishment. We must find them, encourage them and fight for their elections.
These are painful times for the party of Lincoln and Reagan, but we have a golden opportunity to demonstrate its character and its convictions, and rebuild stronger than ever. So let's get going.