The Republican Party finds itself the minority party in America for the first time in more than 15 years. I’ll be the first to admit it has taken some adjustment. Republicans have engaged in some healthy soul searching since Election Day, trying to come to grips with our minority status and debating the best way forward as we point out our differences with the Democrats and chart our return to the majority.
This has been an important debate within the Republican Party, particularly because of the place in history America finds itself. Last year, the Democrats told voters they would bring “change” to Washington, but their version of change has been to push America to the left further and faster than I think anyone could have imagined.
That is why I believe America needs the Republican Party now more than ever before. We may be America’s minority party at the moment, but Republicans represent the views and concerns of a majority of Americans. Republicans across America - from our national and state leaders down to our local activists and grass-roots supporters - have to get about the business of telling families how Republican principles of less spending, lower taxes, responsive and responsible government, personal freedom and strong national defense stand in stark contrast to the reckless policies we’ve seen from the president and congressional Democrats in four short months.
Republicans will not be afraid to agree with the president when we believe he is doing what is best for America, but neither will we be afraid to disagree with him when we believe his actions are wrong for America.
To accomplish this goal, Republicans are turning a corner in three important ways:
c The Republican Party will be forward-looking - it is time to stop looking backward. Republicans have spent ample time re-examining the past. It has been a healthy and necessary task. But I believe it is time for Republicans to focus all of our energies on winning the future by emerging as the party of new ideas. Republicans are emerging once again with the energy, focus and determination to turn our timeless principles into new solutions for the future.
c The Republican Party will not shy away from voicing our opposition to the president’s policies. His honeymoon is over. As a candidate, President Obama sounded moderate in his views. But he now presides over the most massive top-down expansion of government bureaucracy and spending our country has ever seen.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama talked about fiscal responsibility, about government living within its means. But as president, Mr. Obama is spending with reckless abandon and saddling our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama boasted about cutting taxes. But as president, he will have to raise taxes to pay for his massive top-down government explosion. During the election campaign, Mr. Obama talked a lot about being bipartisan, but he has yielded his legislative agenda almost entirely to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has repeatedly shut Republicans out of negotiations on important legislation, from economic stimulus to the budget to health care.
Let me make one point clear - Republicans will not make our opposition to the president personal. Republicans will oppose policies of the president that we believe are wrong, but our opposition will be expressed in very sharp contrast to the classless way the Democrats and the far left spoke of President Bush.
c The Republican Party will seize upon momentum for a Republican resurgence that already is under way in states and local communities. I have traveled extensively since being elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, meeting with state party leaders and grass-roots activists alike. There is genuine enthusiasm for a Republican balance to the reckless excesses of the president and congressional Democrats. I believe the Republican Party can ride that wave of local enthusiasm to victory in upcoming elections.
The Republican Party has turned a corner. As we move forward, Republicans should take a lesson from President Reagan. Again, we’re not looking back - if Mr. Reagan were here today, he would have no patience for Americans who look backward. Mr. Reagan always believed Republicans should apply our conservative principles to current and future challenges facing America. For Mr. Reagan’s conservatism to take root in the next generation, we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age.
Republicans are getting about the business of America’s future, because our vision for America is far different from what the president and congressional Democrats have shown thus far. And I fear the Democrats are just getting started.
Michael Steele is chairman of the Republican National Committee.