Conservatives have been in a needed period of self-examination since the devastating losses of the 2006 and 2008 elections. Lawmakers, pundits and activists on every level have prescribed fixes for the Republican Party, ranging from a “back to basics” re-establishment of traditional, conservative ideals to a full-scale reinvention of the GOP and its platforms.
The conservative movement is rooted in a desire to preserve the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and to expand the promise of the American dream. So I think that we should take our instruction from those we seek to serve, protect and prosper: hardworking Americans — irrespective of race, age, gender or creed. I believe that by joining forces with all who wish to preserve what makes America great, we can reinvigorate, embolden and empower the Republican Party, by remaining true to and promoting our core values.
As it was when our Founding Fathers scrawled their signatures on the parchment of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Reagan Revolution helped free the American economy from excessive taxation and inflation in the 1980s, and when Republicans entered into a Contract with America in 1994, America remains a land of opportunity. And the promise of a better life for individuals and families is what should unite us behind the principles and policies that will spur confidence in households across our nation.
But there are too many Americans who think their needs are not being met by the political parties. These are Americans who want our nation to prosper through business and enterprise and to see our nation stand strong among other nations through a robust military and a formidable national defense. They are patriotic. They are hardworking.
They have dreams for themselves and great hopes and goals for their children. But many of them have not been embraced by the Republican Party, and the empty platitudes of the Democrats have not lived up to their promises. In fact, the Democrats have done American families a grave disservice by substituting big-government solutions for everything, in place of creating opportunity for individual achievement.
The challenge facing conservatives is to understand the barriers that stand between Americans and their dreams and to help every family that wants to succeed surmount those obstacles.
Let us start with education, which always has been and always will be a reliable predictor of opportunity. There are exceptions, but on the whole, a person can expect greater professional and financial success if he or she has an education. There are first- and even second-generation American families, many of them ethnic minorities, who work tirelessly in family-run businesses or other jobs to make sure that, when the time comes, they can afford to put their children through college. There are parents working two jobs to provide for their families so their children wont have the same challenges and struggles they faced. But if they are living in areas with crime-ridden, poorly performing schools, the odds will be stacked against those children, despite their parents efforts.
We are not meeting these families needs. And it isn’t fair that, for all their hard work, their children will still be disadvantaged. We must restore local autonomy to our nations public schools and focus on both the foundational basics, such as English grammar and math, while also providing our students the technological edge that is critical in the 21st century.
Another barrier to prosperity is escalating taxes and overreaching government. The same families that are toiling to send their children to good schools are running their own small businesses. The policies of the Republican Party are to keep taxes low and to keep the governments involvement light-handed. Our belief has always been, Americans know better how to spend their money than the government does. Likewise, when they work hard and sacrifice, government should not limit their success.
Through enormous overspending in the stimulus, a government takeover of health care, and cap-and-trade legislation, the Obama administration has shown that government intervention and interference is “situation normal.” The Democrats’ spending spree will have to be funded somehow, but how will they do that? Through raising taxes! Americans, who want to maintain control of their businesses, their households, their health and their pocketbooks should consider how the Democratic Congress places government at the center of every “solution,” while conservatives pursue effective solutions that minimize bureaucratic interference and allow individuals to determine their own destiny.
Winning over a broader swath of Americans to our party has nothing to do with moderation. It has everything to do with remaining true to our core Republican values. A recent Gallup Poll reported that more Americans consider themselves conservative than moderate or liberal, showing that our Republican principles are at the core of American values.
Our party is a natural fit for the divorced suburban mother sending her children to public school, for the family opening up a small business in their neighborhood, and for the young Americans who have signed up to fight and, if need be, to die, for our freedoms. These are the people who make our nation a land of opportunity — and who make America great. These are the people to whom we must communicate our shared beliefs. If we do this, the Republican Party will remain relevant, effective and successful.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has represented Texas in the U.S. Senate since 1993. Mrs. Hutchison is seeking the 2010 Republican nomination for governor.