Noth­ing ex­treme about grass-roots con­ser­vatism

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Af­ter a spring of tea par­ties, a sum­mer of town halls and a fall March on Wash­ing­ton, it is clear that grass-roots con­ser­vatism is alive and well. I am proud to be a part of the move­ment that formed as a re­ac­tion to ru­n­away gov­ern­ment spending that be­gan in the Bush years, and has con­tin­ued to the present.

This move­ment presents the Repub­li­can Party with an op­por­tu­nity to re­con­nect with grass-roots con­ser­vatism and shine once more; that is if the GOP can re-earn its trust.

When I joined the Tax­payer March on Wash­ing­ton, as it went down Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue on Sept. 12, I was sur­rounded by Amer­i­cans of ev­ery stripe, all united in op­po­si­tion to over­reach­ing gov­ern­ment. I marched with small-busi­ness own­ers, grand­par­ents and col­lege stu­dents. Of­ten I would find my­self with a so­cial con­ser­va­tive on one side and a lib­er­tar­ian on the other, both united in op­po­si­tion to the rad­i­cal ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment cur­rently tak­ing place.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called th­ese Amer­i­cans “As- tro­turf” and “an­gry mobs.” A post­ing on the Or­ga­niz­ing for Amer­ica Web site — Pres­i­dent Obama’s grass-roots group — called on sup­port­ers to “fight back against our own rightwing do­mes­tic ter­ror­ists who are sub­vert­ing the Amer­i­can demo­cratic process.”

But far from be­ing right-wing ex­trem­ists, the lim­ited gov­ern­ment move­ment is at the dead cen­ter of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

A new Pub­lic Strate­gies poll of 1,000 reg­is­tered vot­ers shows that if the next con­gres­sional elec­tion were held to­day, the top is­sue iden­ti­fied by 45 per­cent of those polled is the econ­omy. Com­ing in sec­ond is con­cern over the deficit and gov­ern­ment spending. This was re­flected in a Ras­mussen poll, which showed that 62 per­cent of vot­ers pre­fer tax cuts to in­crease gov­ern­ment spending to stim­u­late eco­nomic growth. Fi­nally, a re­cent Gallup Poll showed that, on av­er­age, Amer­i­cans be­lieve 50 per­cent of ev­ery fed­eral tax dol­lar is wasted.

Fo­cus­ing on fix­ing the econ­omy and re­turn­ing san­ity to the bud­get are not ex­trem­ist po­si­tions.

When you com­bine pub­lic opin­ion and the en­ergy of the lim­ited-gov­ern­ment move­ment, the Repub­li­cans have a tremendous op­por­tu­nity at hand. I have long said that when we act like us we win, when we act like them we lose. What is needed right now is sharp pol­icy dis­tinc­tions, not just Demo­crat light.

To earn the sup­port of the lim­ited gov­ern­ment move­ment, the Repub­li­can Party needs to adopt pub­lic poli­cies and of­fer candidates who hold a clear vi­sion of per­sonal and eco­nomic free­dom. For those who hold or are seek­ing of­fice, this is the time to stand firm on prin­ci­ple. The pub­lic un­der­stands that bu­reau­cracy-cen­tered health care pro­pos­als will cost more, pro­vide Amer­i­cans with poorer health care choices and add sig­nif­i­cantly to the deficit.

We do not need new en­ergy taxes and re­stric­tions on sup­plies, but pol­icy to use ex­ist­ing re­sources to gen­er­ate af­ford­able, clean, and de­pend­able sources of en­ergy. It is time for fair and bold re­form of the tax code to en­cour­age work and en­trepreneur­ship and re­spects the ci­ti­zen. It is time to turn off the print­ing presses to en­sure a sta­ble dol­lar.

Po­lit­i­cal hacks and pun­dits will say that stand­ing firm on prin­ci­ple will make the Repub­li­cans “the party of ‘no.’ “ But why is it wrong to say “no” to bad ideas? I have al­ways said that if you make a deal with the devil, you are a ju­nior part­ner. Com­pro­mise should make a bill bet­ter, not just less worse. This is not the time to be timid with lim­ited gov­ern­ment val­ues.

Amer­i­cans know the BushObama eco­nomic po­lices of bailouts and stim­u­lus have failed, as the econ­omy stag­nates and un­em­ploy­ment soars. The per­pe­tra­tors on Wall Street who ran com­pa­nies into the ground and home­own­ers who bought houses they could not af­ford were bailed out, while those who lived within their means face higher taxes. What hap­pened to ac­count­abil­ity? Amer­i­can eco­nomic suc­cess was built on hard work, prop­erty rights and in­di­vid­u­als will­ing to take risk. At­tempt­ing to bail out fail­ure and mort­gag­ing our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren’s fu­ture is not the so­lu­tion.

In­de­pen­dent vot­ers, those who gave the Democrats the winning mar­gin in 2008, are unim­pressed with the failed eco­nomic poli­cies of bailouts and deficits. A Wall Street Jour- nal/NBC News poll taken at the end of Septem­ber showed that, for the first time since the elec­tion, in­de­pen­dent vot­ers dis­ap­proved of the ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional per­for­mance, 46 per­cent to 41 per­cent.

Our prin­ci­ples are still winning, even if politi­cians who claimed to be fis­cal con­ser­va­tives have let us down in years past. Now is our op­por­tu­nity. Lim­ited-gov­ern­ment ac­tivists have organized and spo­ken and in­de­pen­dent vot­ers still re­ject big gov­ern­ment. All are looking for pol­icy cham­pi­ons.

For the good of the na­tion, I pray that the Repub­li­can Party stands firm on prin­ci­ple, con­tin­ues to fight against a hos­tile gov­ern­ment takeover of health care, re­jects cap and trade, of­fers al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions and takes Amer­ica back to its foun­da­tion of putting the in­di­vid­ual ahead of the col­lec­tive.

Dick Armey is the chair­man of Free­domWorks Foun­da­tion, a na­tional grass-roots or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to lower taxes, less gov­ern­ment and more free­dom as well as the na­tional spon­sor for the Sept. 12 Tax­payer March on Wash­ing­ton.

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