Back in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was running for reelection, I became so frustrated with his Adminsitration’s betrayal of the Reaganite record on which the current president’s father has won election in 1988 and the emptiness of his reelection campaign that I had framed an old poster-size picture I had of the Gipper to hang above my mantelpiece to remind me why I was a Republican, indeed, why I was involved in politics.
A few weeks later, at a “victory” party for the local GOP, a reporter for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress interviewed me, wanting to know my thoughts on the election. I commented that the incumbent “had betrayed the Reagan legacy and that’s why he’s losing tonight.” And as I have noted in previous posts on this election, the outgoing Republican Congress similarly betrayed the Reagan legacy and that’s why they lost earlier this week.
Twelve years ago, House Republicans put together a conservative platform, the Contract with America based on principles the Gipper had been articulating for the preceding three decades. They won an impressive victory. But, once in power for several years, they lost sight of those principles, as had the president’s father.
Twelve years after Ronald Reagan’s election, the American people voted his successor out because he had forgotten the reason the Gipper had won so handily, electing a centrist Democrat promising “change.” Twelve years after the Contract with America election, the American people voted out a Republican Congress that had broken that Contract and elected many centrist Democrats whose party leadership promised a “New Direction.”
Among those centrist Democrats was a former member of the Reagan Administration who, while leaving his old boss’s party, never distanced himself form the man himself and, as I noted in a prior post, used that great man’s image in campaign ads. The use of Ronald Reagan certainly helped him sway a few votes, certainly enough to tip such a close election.
Eighteen years, after he left office, Ronald Reagan’s ideas still resonate with the American people. Polls show the American people, by comfortable margins, want smaller government and lower taxes and favor judicial restraint. In their spendthrift ways, particularly with earmarks, House Republicans ran away from many of the ideas which accounted for their rise.
But, there’s still hope. All the candidates for House GOP leadership have made clear that the party needs to return to those ideas. Two years after the American people voted out the man who betrayed the legacy which helped him win the White House, they elected the first Republican Congress in forty years. So, perhaps, two years after the American people voted out that Congress, they will elect a new Republican Congress and President, committed to the ideas and vision of the man who helped our party return from the wilderness in which it had wallowed for the first few decades after World War II.
As congressional Republicans return to that wilderness, they should also return to those ideas and that vision, the only way show them the way back into the good graces of the American people and back into power. As we Republicans look forward, we could do no better than to remember Ronald Wilson Reagan whose ideas were vindicated this week even as his party went down to defeat.
-B. Daniel Blatt (AKA GayPatriotWest)