A (new) conservative revolution — and it begins with me
Let's just say that yesterday was a bad day.
I had to hear my liberal friends gloat and go on and on and on about how bad the Republicans are. Well, you want to know something? I agree. The Republicans lost because they lost their souls. They forgot they were conservatives first, and Republicans second.
I've been a Republican my entire adult life. My background as the son of exiles, refugees from Communism, no doubt shaped who I am. I've held core conservative beliefs as long as I can remember. I was twelve years old when Richard Nixon was elected the first time. I supported him because, as a young man approaching draft age who was not a Senator's son, I firmly believed he would help us win in Vietnam and end it. I was not looking forward to visiting Southeast Asia at the expense of Uncle Sam. (Thankfully, he ended the draft a year before my eighteenth birthday.) But it turned out that Nixon campaigned to the right, but governed to the left. I was wrong about what he would accomplish; he (and Kissinger) succeeded in destroying whatever chance we had of defeating Communism in Southeast Asia by caving to the desire to make peace. A lesson forgotten, I guess, that peace cannot be permanent when your opponent knows you are weak. After Watergate, I contracted a bad case of RRDS (Recurring Republican Disillusionment Syndrome) until 1976, when a voice arose in the conservative movement that excited my political sensibilities. That voice belonged to Ronald Reagan.
Reagan, in that critical time, was a voice of reason, a voice of strength. A real American whose brand of conservatism thrilled me more than you can imagine: small government, deregulation, low taxes, a vital military not afraid to project its awesome power in the world, espousing Judeo-Christian values and the American way. God, I thought then, what a great President he'd make! Unfortunately, the Republicans decided to nominate the then current unelected President, Gerald Ford, co-conspirator of the Warren Commission report, successor to the disgraced Spiro Agnew, and thrust into office by Nixon's resignation. He was soundly beaten by Jimmy Carter who, to this very day, remains the single-worst President of my lifetime -- and that's saying a lot considering LBJ and Bubba. So we know what wisdom the Republicans had in nominating Ford.
In 1980, Reagan was nominated and won by a landslide. Ditto in 1984. While I disagreed with some of what the Reagan Administration did, I was very happy overall with what they accomplished, not least of which was spending the Soviets into the ground and defeating that flavor of Communism, and lowering my taxes. Did he make mistakes? Yes; running from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks, and not ending the Iranian and Cuban threat come to mind, among other things. But he stuck with his conservative principles more than any other President.
In 1988, George H. W. Bush, Reagan's vice-president, was nominated. I voted for him because he was going to be the de facto nominee anyway. But I felt a little uneasy about some of his positions. Four years later, after his broken promise on taxes -- an unforgivable sin to any real conservative (my second bout of RRDS) -- he was defeated by someone who said he was a moderate, a fiscal conservative. To my everlasting shame, I contributed to that person's victory. Clinton, the grifter, conned me. Not a day goes by that I don't remorsefully revisit that error and make an attempt to correct it. I helped cure that mistake in 1994 by helping elect conservatives to the House and Senate. (Even though I was a registered Libertarian, the candidates were few and far between.) Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America was a huge success. A phenomenal check and balance on a President that, if left to his own devices, would have made this country a socialist paradise.
Then 2000 rolls around and the choice before us could not, once again, be more clear. Fornicating with a syphilitic porcupine was preferrable to voting for Al Gore. Bush campaigned to the right. I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I have supported him through good and bad. Despite spending like a liberal, with the Republican congress right behind him. Despite inviting Ted Kennedy to help him write the education bill (and that one almost popped an aneurysm in my head). Despite fighting a politically correct war, and not a war to win, in Iraq. I have supported my President. As I've said on many other occasions, the alternative would have been much worse. But six years after his first election, two days after the mid-term elections, conservatives are looking at a looming disaster right in the face. Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh said this on his radio show:
[. . .] I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat Party and liberalism does.
I believe my side is worthy of victory, and I believe it's much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength. Now I'm liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don't deserve it, to try to carry the water and make excuses for people who don't deserve it. I did not want to sit here and participate, willingly, in the victory of the libs, in the victory of the Democrat Party by sabotaging my own. But now with what has happened yesterday and today, it is an entirely liberating thing. If those in our party who are going to carry the day in the future -- both in Congress and the administration -- are going to choose a different path than what most of us believe, then that's liberating. I don't say this with any animosity about anybody, and I don't mean to make this too personal.
So, in the end, it comes down to two things: balls and principles. you can't have one without the other. Liberals are congenitally devoid of both. But real conservatives have both in spades. One of my heroes, Winston Churchill, is a model for this: he had the balls to face Hitler and the Nazi threat head-on, and core principles he would not back down from. Reagan had the balls to look the Soviets in the eye and call them what they were: an evil empire. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" God, what a moment to be an American! He stuck to his principles regardless of the flak, regardless of what the scumbags in the press said, regardless of how much he was demonized. Margaret Thatcher? Big balls and big principles. These are leaders, my friends, not compromisers.
My President, whom I have supported through thick and thin, has already caved to Speaker Pelosi and the new Congress. His desire to be buddies, his desire to restart that execrable "new tone" has overridden his need to be a leader. Instead of being pals, he should pull out his pen and say "This is my veto pen. I will use it." Reagan, God bless 'im, said that in a nationally televised speech.
This is my third case of RRDS. It's not fatal, but it's the worst yet. I've thrown away my Dubya mug, and I'll remove my Dubya bumper-sticker from my car tonight. Next week, for the second time in thirteen years, I will change the party affiliation on my voter's registration card from 'Republican' to 'Independent.' I'm done with them until we finally get real conservatives in the party leadership again. Candidates who have balls and principles. When that happens, I'll be back in the fray. Maybe Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, or Mitt Romney, will fit that bill. Maybe not. For now, however, I will be an interested, if not horrified, spectator of the follies that are to come. And God help us, because they ain't going to be pretty.