The Reagan Revolution that swept Conservatives back into power after the miserable failures of the Carter Administration and the Republican Revolution brought about by the Contract with America and Newt Gingrich are both dead. The Reagan Revolution ended when Reagan left office and died when Clinton won. The Republican Revolution ended last year when we lost the majority.
We got a lot of time out of Reagan, from the two landslides in the eighties to the victory in ’88 to using him as a model in the 1990’s and so on. But I think we got one last boost from the Gipper shortly after his death. During the last debate, Reagan’s name was used 19 times or more, but he has been dead for almost three years, and I think it is time to find a new leader for the Conservative movement. We can still use Reagan as a model – as a symbol of leadership, good government, strong defense, sound economic policy, and hopeful American optimism.
The situation is similar in Congress. Newt Gingrich led us to a huge victory in the 1994 midterms, and we got a 12 year run from the Contract With America. However, partly because Newt is gone, partly because of the passage time, and partly because we lost our way, that revolution is also finished.
We can’t rely on Reagan and Gingrich to win us the election in 2008 – nor can we continue to see them as the leaders of the Conservative movement 10 years from now. Just as there was “Goldwater Conservatism” and “Reagan Conservatism”, the time has come to find a new face, a new team, to be our leaders for the next decade or two. The principles will be the same, the issues similar, but without a new person to head up the effort, Conservatism is not a movement or a revolution, its nothing more than a leaderless idea.
So why am I bringing this up now, just before the primary and election season, which is almost certain to be the fight of our political lives? Because, the winner of the Republican primaries could be the next Conservative leader, or tell us how long we have to wait to find a different person to be that leader. I want people to forget electability and age. Forget who has been in the Senate longest, and who was once pro-choice, think about here, now, and the future. Ten years from now, or even five, do we really think we could be talking about “Giuliani Conservatism” or “McCain Conservatism”? We are in danger (although perhaps that danger has lessened since the start of the year) of choosing a candidate based solely on his presumed ability to beat a presumed Democratic nominee.
When Americans go out to vote – particularly when Republicans go out to vote in the primaries, they need to forget electability and looks. When Republicans go out to vote they need to ask only one question: “Is this the man with the ideas, positions, and values who is going to be the best for my country and my party.”
Let me know what you think, comment.