Bring Back Vision, Patriotism of Reagan’s Party

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by Patrick J. Buchanan – April 18, 1999

In recent years, Ronald Reagan’s Grand Old Party has at times seemed divided and dispirited. And unless that party can redefine its vision, reclaim its heritage and rekindle its fighting spirit, it will forfeit its claim to lead America.

With the fall of the “evil empire” a decade ago, an era ended; yet the party seems frozen in place and time. Clinging to the old certitudes and lacking the imagination to devise a new foreign policy to fit the needs of a new era, the Republican establishment has locked arms with the old foreign policy elite. The result: a failed attempt to rally the Reagan coalition, without the fire and energy of a new Reaganite agenda.

Out in middle America, there is a new conservative, traditionalist, populist coalition waiting to be born. Its ranks have witnessed the continuing export of the world’s mightiest industrial empire – factory by factory, job by job. They have seen America’s armed services stretched thin to police the planet on behalf of some utopian new world order. They have watched Washington’s power grow and their own freedoms contract.

For these Americans, loyalty does not lie with a party that marches in lockstep with Mr. Clinton on NAFTA, Kosovo and the IMF, and that is too timid to fight on the frontiers of immigration, right to life and judicial activism. They are looking for a new patriotism that puts America first, a new conservatism that puts people first, and new priorities that stand for something higher than the bottom line on a balance sheet. They are looking for a vision and a cause.

The Berlin Wall may be history, and the bulls may run wild on Wall Street, but there are distress and disillusionment in the heartland where American industries are being gutted in the service of a global economy that now commands, for some, more loyalty than the American nation.

The GOP cannot ignore steelworkers whose dreams are being buried beneath dumped imports, farmers who are forced out of the marketplace by 40 percent tariffs from our “trading partners,” or oil patch workers whose jobs are being destroyed by the dumped petroleum of Saddam Hussein.

If we want to re-create the Reagan coalition, we must extend a hand to those left out of the great parade of American prosperity. We must rewrite our trade laws to protect the jobs of these workers, the survival of their industries and the sovereignty of our nation. Products manufactured abroad must carry the same tax burden as products made in the United States, and no American worker should be forced to beg relief from a foreign-dominated global trade authority.

Like our trade policy, our foreign policy must be reshaped to put America’s vital interests first. When those interests are threatened, or our citizens attacked, or our honor impugned, we will fight – but we will not sacrifice American soldiers to redeem the blunders and save the faces of foolhardy interventionists.

Here at home, Republicans must lead America back to constitutionalism. Welfare, housing and education must be pried from the grip of the federal government and returned to the states. The GOP should also preside over the end of legalized larceny by the IRS and enact a fairer, flatter tax system every American can understand.

But balancing Washington’s books is not enough, for our nation’s greatest deficit is a moral deficit. If the GOP washes its hands of the innocent blood of 35 million unborn babies in the name of building a “big tent,” we will forfeit our moral mandate to govern. And if we do not stand up against the campaign to legalize assisted suicide of the disabled, the ill and the elderly, we cannot legitimately ascend the bully pulpit President Truman called “pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”

The Republican Party is the natural home of working men and women for whom conservatism needs no apology. And we must unite with them to fulfill America’s promise – to reclaim the lost sovereignty of our republic, to clean up all that poisons and pollutes our culture, and to heal the soul of America. Only then can the Republican Party claim to lead America. Only then will the Grand Old Party be both grand and great again.

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