The death of the party

National | "Moderate" Republicans point the way to defeat

Issue: "Fighting Potomac fever," Feb. 27, 1999

Does anyone remember the last time moderate Republicans won anything worth winning? Were they responsible for the Reagan Revolution? How about the first takeover of both houses of Congress in 40 years? Which wing of the GOP produced those victories? Do voters want Democrat Lite, a good description of moderate Republicans? The New York Times editorial page offers this advice to Republicans: Capitulate to liberal positions and people will like you. Was being liberal what attracted voters to their candidates? Was the approval of The New York Times essential to President Reagan's victory and a majority in Congress? No, it supported Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in 1980 and 1984. So why listen to it now? Voter turnout in last November's election was the lowest in 56 years. A major reason was that many conservatives stayed home because they believed Republicans had lost their will to fight and to lead. The Times felt the gathering of only 70 GOP moderates in Miami earlier this month important enough to warrant front-page coverage. The collection of mostly Northeast liberals (who couldn't win outside the Northeast) pleaded with their party to commit suicide. Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut blamed Republican policies for alienating women (that is, feminist women; conservative women vote Republican), union members, immigrants, minorities, the elderly, teachers, homosexuals, and environmentalists. Virtually all of these always vote Democrat, so it is difficult to see how Republicans can win their votes without losing those voters who made the GOP a powerhouse in the statehouses and a majority in Congress. There was talk in Miami about the party's needing to "broaden its appeal." No, it needs to solidify its appeal to conservatives who have dominated the party because voters in the past believed their ideas about lower taxes, smaller government, personal responsibility, and shoring up the nation's morals to be a far better platform than cutting a deal with Democrats and their increasingly socialist economic agenda. What these social liberals hate is conservative angst over abortion. One also hears in their talk a considerable amount of regional and intellectual snobbery. Richard Blank Jr., a securities trader from New Jersey, revealed his bias toward a certain region of the country and the people who live there: "Does the Republican-controlled Congress operate under a mandate that requires it to elect leaders who are homogeneous, intolerant, good old Southern boys who are prone to say dumb things?" He added: "If we don't deliver new sound bites, we can't put a new face on our party." Focusing on sound bites instead of sound ideas will doom the GOP. To his credit, New York Gov. George Pataki refused to join this nonsense. Declining to second-guess congressional leaders or the impeachment process, Gov. Pataki said, "I'm proud of our party and what our party stands for ... there's been so much gnashing of teeth and internal agonizing and psychological review. I don't think we need that." There's nothing wrong with the Republican Party that remembering what brought them to the party won't cure. First, like Ronald Reagan, they must redefine the role of government. Would people rather do for themselves or turn over growing amounts of their income and freedom to government? If competition works in business, could competition between private and public schools raise all academic boats? This is a land of equal opportunity, not guaranteed outcome. When government seeks to give some groups or classes preferences over others, it discriminates against at least one class and demeans others. The crack in the moral foundation of this nation has produced unhappy lives, broken homes, and a culture that is increasingly hostile to purer and higher things. Government cannot repair the foundation, but it can stop discriminating against those who can. While the average voter doesn't remember much about Whitewater (or care), most voters won't hold it against congressional Republicans 21 months from now that they impeached and attempted to convict President Clinton. They, not he, obeyed the law and the Constitution. So brighten up, Republicans. Don't listen to the voices who are used to being in the minority. If you do, you will join them.
-© 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.


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