With the entire Republican delegation finally standing firm against the most recent ‘bailout’ (read ‘pork barrel’) package one has to wonder if backbone has finally returned to the party of low taxes, smaller government and limited spending. For some this represents no change at all. These have been the voices crying out in the wilderness that it is immoral to try to spend our way to prosperity by expecting our children and grandchildren to foot the bill.
For others, honorable men and women, I’m sure, it was the opportunity to vote their conscience rather than playing the role of a good partisan by supporting the party or the president. Still others, the true political types, sensed that opposing this piece of legislation was the best way for them to survive politically since the massive transfer of wealth was now proposed by the rival party and was thus, fair game.
Parties play an important role in our political system by allowing supposedly like minded people to get together and promote shared values… at least that is the theory. Our system of government is set up to operate with a two party system, which is why it is extremely difficult for any other group to attain a major status. We can’t expect this to change under either party leadership.
What happens when party leadership starts taking the entire structure in a new direction – one neither espoused nor supported by the rank and file party membership? Among other things, it reveals the priorities of their members. Do they value party of principle or principle over party? It gets even more complicated when we factor in tradeoffs people make. That is, conceding a point that is not so critical to accomplish something more important. This is supposed to be the essence of politics.
Whatever the motivation, we have seen over the past four or so years an abdication of the smaller, less intrusive government direction of the Republican Party. Officials have been listening to the media and not the people. They have been promoting the ‘big tent’ philosophy of backing away from core beliefs so as not to offend more moderate voters who really haven’t thought things through.
How has this worked? Has anyone ever gotten anywhere by straddling a fence? The last two election cycles have produced the two most resounding defeats this party has seen in recent memory. And yet we hear louder cries from some corners to further desert our ideals to win the confidence of the voters. Think about that for a moment: people are supposed to trust and respect us more as we tell them we really don’t want to live out our principles.
So we now see a group looking for a resurrection of credibility, perhaps too late to stop the current madness. On the other hand, it’s never wrong to do the right thing. It may be too late, but not wrong. Perhaps the Republican Party is in the process of recovering its soul. Perhaps they are beginning down path to renewed influence.
In any case, it’s helpful to look at what happens when people, in this case Congressmen and Senators, who go along to get along. Many are former Congressmen and former Senators. Others came closer to defeat than they ever have this past November. Even those that survived have lost their majority, prestige and influence… not to mention self respect.
What has happened to this country that says it honors the memory of men like John Paul Jones? We should remember his reply to demands for surrender “I have not yet begun to fight” as the Bonhomme Richard was burning and slipping under the sea. A few hours later he stood victoriously on the British ship that had destroyed his own. Did he win this victory by surrendering, compromising and giving up the fight?
The point is, the reasons we got into this situation lie in the past, but we should still learn that we can’t compromise on principle and expect to be successful. The Republican majority did… and they are no longer the majority. If the voters don’t understand the value of smaller, less controlling government, the answer is not deserting the ideal, but in better explaining why freedom is better than servitude. Most of the people have been through the public schools which have systematically denigrated the contributions of men and women like Jones in the interest of turning out good little socialist workers. We, including our elected representatives, have to stand up for what is right. We may be like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness. He did not change his message when no one was there, but when the time came, his message was heard.
Perhaps we, Congressmen and Senators could learn something from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true, so we’re going to stand up right here.”