Originally published 8/13/2014
We need an agenda, we need a message, we need it to be an inclusive and positive one. We know that we’re competing against a Big Government that wants not to downsize itself – and against a media that has an agenda and pulpit of their own. We need to fix a broken Government. We need reform in so many places and areas.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) spoke about this today…
Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s was a prominent figure, but not a powerful one. He was no longer governor. His primary challenge against a sitting president of his own party had failed, and made him a pariah among a resentful Republican Establishment in Washington.
And the conservative movement he led was once again in the political wilderness.
The situation was bleak. But, as always, where others saw obstacles, Reagan saw opportunities.
He saw what too many in Washington did not: that a disconnect had opened between the American people and their leaders. President Carter’s approval rating fell into the 30s, and Congress’s into the 20s.
The Republican establishment – timid and unimaginative by nature – hoped the Democrats’ unpopularity might allow Republicans to win a few elections by default.
But this status-quo strategy did not interest Reagan.
Reagan wanted to build a new Republican Party, a new majority coalition, a new conservative movement that would not just cut across party lines… but permanently redraw them.
Hanging out and pissing and moaning about progressives? It’s going to capture a few seats in 2014. Might even get the White House back in 2016. But it’s not really fixing anything. The pendulum will swing back and forth, and Government will continue to grow, eroding our liberties all the while.
Reagan needed a way to transform this anti-liberal majority into a pro-conservative majority.
He didn’t want to spin them, or play on their fears. He respected them: he wanted actually to persuadethem.
He knew that abstract theories and negative attacks weren’t going to cut it. Reagan needed to make conservatism new, real, and relevant.
He rebuilt conservatism with a concrete agenda of innovative reforms to directly help and empower all of the forgotten Americans whom liberalism always leaves behind.
He advocated marginal tax-rate reduction. This, Reagan correctly promised, would allow workers to keep more of their own income, raise wages, and create new jobs.
He advocated a strong dollar. This, Reagan correctly promised, would help us gain control over the inflation that was gnawing away at middle-class wages, savings, and aspirations.
And he advocated an aggressive defense build-up. This, Reagan again correctly promised, would help us expose and defeat an aggressive, atheistic, and violent empire that threatened the life of every American, and the future of every child.
So often, Reagan’s success is chalked up to his personal attributes – his charm, his humor, his political and communication skills. He had all those things when he ran for president the first time. But alas, those personal attributes alone were not enough.
We must always remember that in 1976, conservatives found a leader for the ages… but they still lost. By 1980, they had forged an agenda for their time, and only then—with an agenda and a messenger for that agenda—did they win.
Control of the Senate is right around the corner, and the White House potentially 2 years hence. Do Conservatives have an agenda? A messenger for that agenda? Or is it time to send up the next guy in line again? Again, this might pick up a few seats in 2014, but meh. It’s not fixing our country.
A real conservative reform agenda has to do more than just cut big government. It has to fix broken government. Reagan did
just that a generation ago. Since then, new challenges have emerged, demanding repair – and conservative principles can once again point us toward exciting, innovative solutions.
I find it interesting that most Americans feel forgotten, left out of the debate, left behind in their efforts to get ahead, while shouldering the burdens of failed policies, without a voice in what matters most. The ironic part of having a podium and a microphone is that most Americans want someone in Washington not to speak to them, but to listen to them. “Fix it,” they say. “Turn it around,” they demand. “Will government ever work for me, or will I always be working for it?”
The average American can’t afford, doesn’t deserve and shouldn’t want a Government big enough to monitor their every footstep and move. That’s not why we declared independence. The average American needs a Government off their back, not riding it.
Enlist as 21st-Century Reagan revolutionaries. See beyond the next eight years into the next 80. Join me in taking the road less traveled. We are the forgotten Americans who have new ideas, start businesses, start families, volunteer as room mothers and little-league coaches, we are the flag raisers, the builders, the workers and the inventors. We are the dreamers and the stewards, we are the shopkeepers by day and the homemakers at days’ end.
We are the people who James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, had in mind and Ronald Reagan did not forget. We are the light emanating from the city on a hill; we are the keepers of the flame, the guardians of liberty.
We are the people—the unassuming heroes marching forward in Reagan’s cadence of confidence in that quiet adventure we still call the American Dream.
So there’s the charge to Conservatives. Play small-ball and look at the next 4-6-8 years – or be bold and look out to the next 80. Fortune favors the audacious. The time is right.
It’s a great speech – read it in its entirety here: August 13, 2014 Senator Mike Lee.
Edit (7/30/2016): Shit. #VoteYourConscience.
If only we had a sign. Any sign…anything…sigh Someone or something we could have rallied behind…sigh