Nothing extreme about grass-roots conservatism
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.