As the day on which we celebrate the quarter-century anniversary of the Gipper’s inaugural draws to a close, I reflect on a speech Hugh posts that Presidential Advisor Karl Rove delivered to the Winter Meeting of the Republican National Committee (RNC). That good and sage man noted how the GOP has, within the last 40 years, “gone from a minority party with little influence to one that is broad and inclusive, self-assured and optimistic, forward-leaning and dominant.”
It is entirely fitting that Rove delivered this speech on this day for he focused on the notion that GOP “success springs from our ideas.” For it was under Gipper’s leadership, that ours became the party of ideas. Disparaged by his critics (many of whom similarly disparage the incumbent Republican president) as an intellectual lightweight, Ronald Reagan was a man of ideas who read widely. He studied political philosophy and economics and filled his early speeches, many of which he wrote on his own, with references to our founders and other great thinkers, men who had a vision of the role of government and the institutions needed to protect our freedom and promote our national security.
Let us hope that as we recall Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, we bear in mind that his ideas — and his leadership — helped bring our party back to life after nearly five decades in the minority. And to make sure we don’t return to our minority statuts, our party’s current leaders need to hold to Reagan’s vision and so recover from recent setbacks. If House Republicans took heed of that vision, a vision which helped inspire the Contract with America, the series of policy proposals which helped bring them to power now nearly twelve years ago, they might not now be facing the troubles they are facing. It is a good sign that at least two of those up for House Majority Leader have referenced ideas near and dear to Reagan’s heart in their campaigns. They, like Rove, recognize that ours is a party of ideas.
Contrast Ronald Reagan’s vision, as Rove does, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s boast last month to a partisan audience. His party, he claimed, had “killed the Patriot Act.” That is, he did not boast of new programs Senate Democrats were promoting, but of one they had obstructed. (And one which has helped make our country more secure.) While he joined other leaders of his party Wednesday in proposing an ethics reform package to address recent lobbying scandals in the nation’s capital, he rebuffed the efforts of a Democratic Senator who put forward “proposal on “‘ethics reform’” . . . that could be bi-partisan:”
Reid told this person that this was the wrong time to be engaged in construtive (sic) “reform” proposals with the other side. He said that this was the time to draw a line and to show how “our side” differed dramatically from “their side.”
Unlike Ronald Reagan who always sought common ground with his ideological adversaries, Harry Reid wishes to focus on differences. As Polipundit‘s Lorie Byrd (one of my sources for this link) puts it: “The Democrat leadership is more concerned with making Bush look bad than in finding solutions.”