Today the Republican Party is at a crossroads. It faces the choice of continuing down a path of failed leadership and forgotten principles, or taking the hard and rutted road back to its beginnings. The party was established to restore the values of our founding fathers in a time much like today, when those values had been forgotten.
Today as in 1854, the political system has fallen into the hands of greedy and ambitious leaders who disregard the rights of the people and promote ideas which are fundamentally un-American because they see them as a route to greater political power and control. The forces of special interests, sectionalism, bureaucratic indifference and institutionalized oppression are stronger than ever before. They will not be stopped unless the Republican Party remembers its purpose and stands up against them. …
The differences between the Republican and Democratic parties of the modern era were clear as early as 1908 when the Republican Party platform clearly delineated the differences between the two parties, which are still strikingly apparent today:
The present tendencies of the two parties are even more marked by inherent differences. The trend of Democracy is toward socialism, while the Republican party stands for a wise and regulated individualism. Socialism would destroy wealth, Republicanism would prevent its abuse. Socialism would give to each an equal right to take; Republicanism would give to each an equal right to earn. Socialism would offer an equality of possession which would soon leave no one anything to possess, Republicanism would give equality of opportunity which would assure to each his share of a constantly increasing sum of possessions. In line with this tendency the Democratic party of to-day believes in Government ownership, while the Republican party believes in Government regulation. Ultimately Democracy would have the nation own the people, while Republicanism would have the people own the nation.
That description of the Democrats is as accurate today as it was 100 years ago, and the same Republican principles are just as valid today as they were then. Some may have forgotten the history of the party, but defending individual liberty by standing firm in the face of socialism and statism remain at the core of what makes the GOP unique.
The Republican party was born in liberty, and even in the darkest days of racial strife, that dedication to liberty and equality for all Americans regardless of race, creed, religion or lifestyle remained central to the beliefs of the GOP. The party has always dedicated itself to the ideal of the responsible individual citizen being allowed to live life in his own way without unnecessary interference from government. This principle was expressed clearly in the Republican platform of 1964:
Every person has the right to govern himself, to fix his own goals, and to make his own way with a minimum of governmental interference.
This idea of the sovereign individual goes hand in hand with an understanding that government has a legitimate, but limited, role to protect the rights and welfare of the people and to be answerable to the people for its actions. This was expressed clearly in the 1964 Platform:
It is for government to foster and maintain an environment of freedom encouraging every individual to develop to the fullest his God-given powers of mind, heart and body; and, beyond this, government should undertake only needful things, rightly of public concern, which the citizen cannot himself accomplish. …
Today it seems as if the Republican party and many of its leaders have lost their way. Yet the basic values of the party have not changed, though some seem to only pay lip service and to have forgotten what it has meant to be a Republican for the last 150 years. In the generation since Goldwater reasserted the core values of the party, the lure of power and greed and opportunism has been stronger than ever. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. In the late 19th century the party suffered a similar identity crisis, turning away from core values of liberty towards corporatism and arrogant complacency. Leaders like Teddy Roosevelt set the party back on track, and though the leadership foundered in the aftermath of the Depression, Eisenhower and Goldwater were there to set the party on what should have been an ideal course by the 1960s. Yet Goldwater’s defeat and the rise of socialism in the 1960s followed by the failures of the Nixon era produced a generation of leaders who have been willing to sacrifice principle for votes no matter what unsavory compromises that required. Leaders like Roosevelt and Goldwater understood that it was better to be right and lose an election than to win at any cost, because the price of such a corrupt victory is invariably too high. …
This problem has been compounded by an invasion of the GOP by disaffected southern Democrats who were driven away from their party when its northern wing embraced civil rights under Kennedy and Johnson and the policies of the party became increasingly socially progressive and dominated by northern issues. As the Republicans struggled to retain their identity, this influx of angry bigots and religious zealots gave power at the polls at the cost of compromises on fundamental principles which had sustained the party for a hundred years. They were followed by strong-defense Democrats whose imperialist ambitions didn’t fit with the post-Vietnam pacifism of the Democratic Party. Both of these groups brought with them beliefs which were alien to the Republican tradition, including a belief in a strong federal government, an expansionist foreign policy, a bizarre moralistic agenda, a big dose of intolerance and a willingness to sacrifice the rights of individuals in pursuit of their political objectives. Accepting these outsiders was an act of desperation which put the integrity of the party at risk in order to hold on to political power.
Now we are paying the price for compromises which have left the party fractured with no ideological center, our history forgotten and our future uncertain. The weakness of our current generation of leaders and the harm they have done to the party with foolish alliances and venal servility to every bulging purse has to end in this new millenium. We must commit ourselves to lead where our leaders have failed and to retrieve the party from the cesspit of corruption. The GOP must reaffirm an absolute commitment to the idea of true Republican government which serves the people and does not rule over the people, and of restoring a nation dedicated to preserving the liberty of every individual equally and absolutely.