Yesterday would have been President Reagan’s 97th birthday – Happy Birthday Mr. President – and it got me thinking about where the Republican Party stands just nine months out from the November election. This year’s primary process has not been an easy exercise for the Grand Old Party and has led many to surmise that the party is split in many different directions between moderates and conservatives (even within conservatives between social, fiscal and national security conservatives). I think this is an accurate assessment and we must begin to mend fences now if there is to be a viable Republican Party of the future.
I’ve never been a big fan of John McCain and his sometimes fleeting following of the conservative ideals that have led me to call myself a conservative. His stands on issues such as immigration, taxes, campaign finance reform, and trade are all concerning to my conservative nature. The thought of a President Clinton or President Obama also concerns my conservative nature so I believe we as conservatives should give him a chance in the next several months to prove himself before we arrive at our time for choosing.
As Senator McCain begins to court dedicated conservatives it would be wise if he were to pick up a copy of Ronald Reagan’s October 27, 1964, “A Time for Choosing” speech and take its wisdom to heart. This speech, more than four decades after it was delivered, remains one of the most powerful orations of the modern American conservative philosophy and could provide the foundation Senator McCain could use to begin the process of rebuilding his conservative credentials.
A few of Ronald Reagan’s most relevant lessons from this speech in his own words include:
· “There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in doing so lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the lest to prevent its happening.”
· “And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all of the other problems I have discussed academic, unless we realize that we are in a war that must be won…And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us.”
· “There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace–and you can have it in the next second–surrender.”
· “Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face–that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peach and war, only between fight and surrender.”
· “If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
· “They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”
· “Private property rights are so diluted that public interest is almost anything that a few government planners decide it should be.”
· “Now, are we so lacking in business sense that we can’t put this program on a sound basis so that people who do require those payments will find that they can get them when they are due…that the cupboard isn’t bare?…At the same time, can’t we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provisions for the non-earning years?”
· “I think we are for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we are against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among the nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world’s population.”
Take a listen to the full speech and ask yourself if these are the values and ideas you’d like to hear Senator McCain espouse over the upcoming months. Senator McCain, you’ve got time before it is our time for choosing to convince us that you are the conservative choice. Will you take advantage of this opportunity?