Time to get back to the Rea­gan mes­sage

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - STAR PARKER

The $64,000 po­lit­i­cal ques­tion is what, if any­thing, will en­er­gize the Repub­li­can Party? An un­der­cur­rent at­ti­tude is tak­ing hold that it’s in­evitable that the White House in 2008 will fol­low the Congress and fall into the hands of the Demo­cratic Party.

Repub­li­cans, al­ready in a funk, get deeper into it as they con­tem­plate this prospect, and are ra­di­at­ing a sense of im­po­tence about what to do. The ex­ist­ing field of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates is not in­spir­ing con­fi­dence and the ques­tion seems to be who will be the sac­ri­fi­cial lamb rather than who will be the con­tender.

Dol­lars are flow­ing in record pro­por­tions to Democrats. Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates raised 50 per­cent more funds than Repub­li­cans in the first quar­ter.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports that Democrats are get­ting the ma­jor­ity of con­tri­bu­tions from cor­po­rate Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tees for the first time since 1994. Ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal, Democrats, who pulled in around a third of cor­po­rate PAC funds in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion cy­cle, got 56.5 per­cent of th­ese funds in the first quar­ter of this year.

Inside the Wash­ing­ton po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, high-pow­ered lob­by­ing firms are re­tool­ing and bring­ing in new Demo­cratic part­ners to get ready for the new era.

Fred Thompson’s re­cent lethar­gic per­for­mance at the Lin­coln Club in Orange County, Calif., didn’t help. Mr. Thompson sounded more like a con­cerned elder states­man con­tem­plat­ing the coun­try’s prob­lems over cigars and brandy than some­one who is los­ing sleep about the di­rec­tion of the coun­try.

So what’s the di­ag­no­sis? Can any­thing be done or must Repub­li­cans re­sign to an in­evitable ebb and flow of his­tory and ac­cept that, for the time be­ing, their time is up?

It’s here where the supreme, and most grat­ing, irony lies.

Repub­li­can suc­cess since the rise of Ron­ald Rea­gan has been defin­ing a bank­rupt Demo­cratic Party, out of step with Amer­i­can val­ues of free­dom and lim­ited gov­ern­ment, and of­fer­ing an al­ter­na­tive.

To re­call Rea­gan’s oft-quoted ob­ser­va­tion at the CPAC con­fer­ence in 1985, “The tide of his­tory is mov­ing ir­re­sistibly in our di­rec­tion. Why? Be­cause the other side is vir­tu­ally bank­rupt of ideas. It has noth­ing more to say, noth­ing to add to the de­bate. It has spent its in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal.”

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the Demo­cratic Party in 2007 and 1985 is ab­so­lutely zero.

Democrats have not gen­er­ated a sin­gle new idea. They’re all about gov­ern­ment and taxes to­day as they were in 1985.

What’s new now is Repub­li­cans, not Democrats. Repub­li­cans have purged the al­ter­na­tive vi­sion that made their party fresh and ex­cit­ing.

Back to Fred Thompson’s speech in Orange Coun­try as case in point.

The for­mer sen­a­tor from Ten­nessee de­voted a good por­tion of his re­marks to boil­er­plate phrases and buzz­words that ap­peal to a con­ser­va­tive crowd (“Wouldn’t it be great if, in­stead of wor­ry­ing so much about how to di­vide the pie, we could work to­gether on how to make the pie big­ger?”)

But Mr. Thompson did take a brave step into sub­stance and this was most re­veal­ing and con­cern­ing. “There is noth­ing more ur­gent than the fate that is await­ing our So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care pro­grams.” What’s his an­swer? “If grand­mom and grand­dad think that a lit­tle sac­ri­fice will help their grand­chil­dren when they get mar­ried, try to buy a home or have chil­dren, they will re­spond to a cred­i­ble call to make that sac­ri­fice.”

Mr. Thompson is sup­posed to be the guy to fill the Rea­gan void. Can any­one imag­ine Rea­gan say­ing any­thing like this?

I’m not talk­ing about ped­dling any free lunches to deal with the $70 tril­lion Medi­care-So­cial Se­cu­rity over­hang. I’m talk­ing about the courage to be hon­est about what’s wrong with th­ese pro­grams that has got­ten us into this mess. Gov­ern­ment plan­ning and so­cial en­gi­neer­ing.

What hap­pened to the Rea­gan mes­sage that too much gov­ern­ment is our prob­lem, restor­ing own­er­ship and choice, and ap­ply­ing this truth to the en­ti­tle­ment mon­ster and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, as we did when we re­formed wel­fare?

Amer­i­cans can walk and chew gum. We can talk about things be­yond the war. But to do so re­quires that our politi­cians dis­play the same courage at home that we’re ask­ing our young men and women to put on the line over­seas.

The so­cial en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­i­ments that our coun­try took on in the last cen­tury are failed and busted. Repub­li­cans need to get back on mes­sage. They seem to have lost the con­vic­tion and for­ti­tude to do this, which is why the thrill is gone.

But if Repub­li­cans in­sist on mor­ph­ing into Democrats, Amer­i­cans will vote for the real thing.

Star Parker is pres­i­dent of CURE, Coali­tion on Ur­ban Re­newal and Ed­u­ca­tion (www.ur­ban­cure.org) and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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