Recently, an alarming trend has been unfolding among members of the Republican Party: More and more Republican candidates, super PACs and members of the GOP are hanging on to the coattails of Ronald Reagan’s legacy, while simultaneously silencing and dismantling his three-legged stool of coalitions: social, foreign policy and economic conservatives, what Reagan called “complete conservatism.” Essentially, the formula and coalition that led to success under Reagan is now being replaced by focusing solely on economics — a “one-legged stool”plan that was proved a failure in 2012.
In the runoff from the 2012 elections, there has been much debate within the media, conservative conferences and summits, and even in personal conversations between those on the “establishment” side of the GOP and those in the conservative movement. On one side are those who think economics is the sole interest of the American people; on the other are conservatives who still believe that Americans have convictions about the great moral questions of our day — domestically and internationally.
As a young, conservative Republican, I have seen the effects of Reagan’s legacy and have benefited from his policies. I watched my dad start his business from our living room in the Silicon Valley with the help of the Reagan economy in 1989. I watched the fall of the Soviet Union and grew up not knowing the fear of communism. Most importantly, I experienced the rise of American hope and optimism.
That same legacy and outcome have not changed. There is still that possibility, that reality, if we choose to claim it and lead on it.
We continue to invoke the great leaders of the Republican Party and the conservative movement: Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and, of course, Ronald Reagan. Yet we are abandoning their principles — the three-legged stool of social, foreign and fiscal conservatism. In the last election, we rode a unicycle of economic policy while President Obama steamrolled to the finish line in a high-powered ATV. Mr. Obama’s decisions on social issues (Obamacare, the Health and Human Services mandate, extreme pro-abortion stances), foreign policy (Benghazi) and economics (demagoguing successful, wealthy Americans as unscrupulous villains while spending the country into debt) went largely unanswered by the GOP. Instead, the party allowed Mr. Obama to go on the offensive and blame Republicans for the mess he was supposedly cleaning up. Timidly addressing the public on one issue will not distinguish us from the Democrats. Instead, it inhibits the GOP from building a high-powered machine to present our full message to America.
Facing four more years of an Obama presidency as well as the 2014 elections, now is not the time to continue our one-year trial of the economic unicycle. Now is the time to unite to win back the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.
Business owners are now faced with a problem that was hushed up on the campaign trail in 2012: Obamacare and the conscience crisis. Employers of conscience are morally opposed to paying for health care programs that cover abortion-inducing drugs. The new “compromise” offered by the Obama administration last month was just as much a fig leaf as his executive order on abortion funding in 2010 that proved to be not legally binding. The House of Representatives has been largely silent on this issue until this week. Reps. Diane Black, John Fleming and Jeff Fortenberry have introduced the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, which provides conservatives with an opportunity to take action against the unconstitutional and unjust mandate. It is vital that the House take this up and take a stand for religious freedom and conscience protections for Americans.
In addition, we need to discuss the growing debt, entitlement programs and out-of-control spending in Congress. We didn’t avoid the “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1, we merely hit the first ledge on the way down to bankruptcy. If we don’t act, we will continue to bounce downward, and my generation will not only have no Social Security or other plan for retirement, but we will also have to figure out how to pay off the national debt. Sequestration is only the beginning of needed spending cuts; the GOP must hold the president accountable for his continued out-of-control spending. The new continuing resolution battle that is looming is another opportunity for members of Congress to take the president to task on our government’s spending addiction.
We also face growing threats abroad. North Korea and Iran have become bolder in their nuclear ambitions as the United States continues a stance of verbal bluster to hide our inaction. Our allies’ futures grow more imperiled every day, yet the Obama administration has taken little action. These countries (among many others) do not take timid leaders and small actions seriously. Following Reagan’s legacy, we need to take bold steps to protect our country, our allies and our interests abroad.
Young men and women in my generation are frustrated by the lack of action and unity going forward. If we want to continue to hearken back to Reagan — the great uniter — then let’s follow his example and come together for the sake of our nation and its future. Let’s take the coalitions he has left us and use the full force of our platform to show America that there can be better days ahead and that there is hope. It is still a fine morning in America; let’s use this sunrise to get back to work.
Mary Powers, 26, is a recent graduate of the University of Dallas who works in Washington, D.C.