The modern Republican Party has risen above its insecurities to achieve political success. Ronald Reagan, for example, held an unshakably positive vision of American capitalism. He didn’t feel a need to qualify the meaning of his conservatism. He understood that big government was cruel and uncaring of individual aspirations. Small government conservatism was, by definition, compassionate — offering every American a way up to self-determination and economic prosperity.
Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because voters no longer saw Republicans as the party of limited government. They have since rejected virtually every opportunity to recapture this identity. But their failure to do so must not be misconstrued as a rejection of principles of individual liberty by the American people. The evidence suggests we are still a nation of pocketbook conservatives most happy when government has enough respect to leave us alone and to mind its own business. The worrisome question is whether either political party understands this.
—Dick Armey. Actually, the only “worrisome question” is whether the Republican Party understands this. Democrats may or may not understand this but Democrats run as the party that believes big government ain’t so bad. To the extent that Republicans ape Democrats, Republicans lose. And “compassionate conservatism” has not been about pursuing conservatism. Rather, it has been about telling the public “we Republicans are not so bad because we are kinda sorta like the Democrats.”
In an electoral contest between fake Democrats and real ones, the real ones win. This year was no different.