Principles over Party
By Harry Beadle
Good grief! The Tea Party movement has actually managed to pull Republicans’ collective fat out of … well, not the fire … more like the political landfill. The GOP has taken control of the U.S. House and is in a much stronger position in the Senate. That’s a start; but now what?
Despite the election of a number of apparently serious traditional conservatives to Congress, many who insist Republicans should lean to the left or at least move to the middle still have power inside the party itself. Others want to use their influence to line their own pockets. Remember former Senator Trent Lott’s plan to “co-opt” any Tea Party-supported candidates who got elected this year?
So there are lessons to be learned – both from and by the Tea Party movement: (a) it’s very easy to become involved in politics; (b) you can make a huge difference in a very short time; (c) you cannot leave the running of your town, county, state or country to the political class; and (d) you can win elections by supporting and voting for principles over party.
And of those lessons, the last is by far the most important. It should teach something to those who’ve been running the Republican brand into the political ground for years, neo-conservatives who in truth are nothing more than pro-defense progressives. But I doubt they’ll learn. After all, they consider it their country club and the party’s conservative base just the hired help.
That makes lesson (c) very important as well. Yes, you vote to elect people to go to city hall, the county courthouse, the state capitol and Washington to do the public’s business. But you also have to watch elected officials constantly and let them know what you expect of them. If you vote then don’t pay attention, well, you’ve seen for yourself what you get.
The simple fact is voting is not the end of the political process in our republican form of government, it’s the beginning. The good news is the American people have sent a clear message to every politician in the country that while they may not have been paying attention before, they are now. The bad news is we have to keep paying attention … forever.
But that’s the easy part. We also have to clean up the mess the Left has made of the Constitution, the economy and the culture and deal with GOP insiders who are almost as bad. The details are far too many to list here.
Former President Ronald Reagan, in his famous 1975 speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee, issued a warning: “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.” Most Republicans didn’t listen.
Still, the Tea Party movement has shown there are many more Americans with traditional conservative leanings than anyone thought. It also shows GOP officials and members of Congress who constantly talk of compromise with the Left are out of touch with the Republican base – and shows they can be replaced.
The bottom line is this: as long as we act on principle – are conservatives first and Republicans second – and always allow principle to determine policy, not only will we win, we will thrive. Conservative ideas gave the GOP control of Congress in 1994. Subsequent years have clearly shown when Republicans abandon conservatism and move to the left, they lose both credibility and elections.
So every bill conservatives propose, everything we do, must reflect a return and strict adherence to the principles that have always helped us win strong public support: low taxes, small government, strong national defense, individual responsibility.
But there’s lots of work to do outside Congress as well.
We must show Americans it’s the conservative Constitution which truly gives “power to the people” and protects the smallest minority of all: the individual. We must show them that to keep power for themselves and out of the hands of a controlling, self-anointed political “elite,” they must demand the Constitution be preserved as the Founders wrote and ratified it, and be interpreted as they intended.
(If you want to know how the Constitution was meant to be interpreted, read – in addition to the Federalist Papers – the Debates on the Constitution. It’s a collection of essays and articles which reflect how the final document was hammered out, and makes very clear what those who ratified the Constitution understood and intended it to mean.)
We must teach not just the names, dates and places of our history, but the ideas that are America. We must counter the Leftist self-hatred which has dominated public schools and colleges for decades and replace it with truth about this nation – good and bad – and the exceptional nature of our Republic.
Thomas Jefferson believed one purpose of education was to pass on to younger generations the ideas and ideals he and the other Founders fought for: “This will give you an enlightened people and an energetic public opinion which will control and enchain the aristocratic spirit of the government.”
The notion of egalitarianism, the equality of all, must be shown to be the lie it is: a false idol of mediocrity. Every human being is unique as created by God: in physical attributes, capacity for learning, talents and abilities. That is true diversity. And while those differences may be enhanced or changed to some degree, they are also what make us human and can’t be ignored. Our Founders correctly saw us as equal only before a just court of law and in the eyes of God.
Conservatives must re-learn how critical it is to teach our values to our children, to show them how and why conservative ideas have always created the most freedom, security and prosperity for everyone, and how and why liberal-progressive-socialist ideas have only created poverty and slavery wherever and whenever they have been tried or imposed. We must never assume our children will become conservative by osmosis.
We must wrest control of the American legal system from liberal jurists and law professors. From the very founding of the Republic, nationalist-minded judges – as opposed to federalist – have subverted the Constitution, unconstitutionally imposing their personal beliefs on the country, passing them off as “constitutional law.”
We must show minorities how conservative values are what truly protect them from political and economic domination and which give them the freedom to take advantage of all the opportunities our nation offers. The simple fact is Capitalism is the only economic system ever devised which democratizes wealth. This more than anything else will help put an end to the politics of race.
We must appeal to the young. They, especially, respond to truth and challenge, no matter their race. If we show them something worth believing in, worth doing, they will join us.
We must continue to organize and pressure even Republican leaders who agree with us. The Left is correct about one thing: change does not happen from the top down but from the bottom up. And if the GOP is to return to its roots and survive as a viable national political party, it must respond to the will of its conservative base. The Tea Party movement is a good beginning, but only a beginning.
We must communicate. Conservatives have finally learned how to take advantage of the internet and new media, tools which helped sweep liberals into power in Washington and around the country. And while we appear to have learned well, we must never fall behind again.
We must be vigilant. Norman Thomas, a six-time Socialist Party candidate for President, once said: “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of “liberalism” they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation, without ever knowing how it happened.”
Thomas was right. Look at the inroads socialism made in the U.S. over the past century. Readers of Russell Kirk’s classic The Conservative Mind are also quickly impressed – and dismayed – by how much socialism has crept into what now passes for conservative thought.
Despite the outcome of these elections, we must realize the political and cultural war we are fighting will never end. The hard-core Left will never surrender. And while traditional conservatives may never be a super-majority of the American public, we will win battle after battle if we are conservatives first, Republicans second: principles over party.
President Reagan’s 1975 remarks recall others spoken several millennia ago by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
Harry Beadle is a former News Anchor for the CNN Radio Network.