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The Era of Reagan Is Not Over

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RUSH: Back to the audio sound bites. Newt Gingrich was on This Week with George Stephanopoulos yesterday. Question: "Some of the Republican blogs are actually suggesting that a brokered convention might be the best hope for you," for Newt Gingrich. "They suggest that the Republicans go to the convention brokered they might turn to you."

GINGRICH: I think the brokered convention would pick one of the people who had filed for president, but I think the process, after all, it was... You know, Abraham Lincoln was running third and won the convention. He didn't come in first on the first ballot, and so, I think there's nothing unhealthy about the Republican Party having a serious discussion. We are at the end of the George W. Bush era. We are at the end of the Reagan era. We're at a point in time when we're about to start redefining -- as a number of people started talking about, starting to redefine -- the nature of the Republican Party, in response to what the country needs.

RUSH: All right, now, this conversation is fine and dandy, and before I have any comments here, I want to remind everybody and preface this with the fact that, as you know, I have supported Newt Gingrich, and I've had a lot of respect for him, still do, over the course of many years. I first became aware of Newt Gingrich when I was in Kansas City, and he was a back bencher Republican in a very small minority in the House of Representatives. This was during the second term of Ronald Reagan. Actually, it was the first term. This would be before 1984, and Newt popularized the Special Orders. These are speeches from the floor of the House at the close of business. Often he was the only one there with a couple of other Republicans. C-SPAN was required to televise them, and it was some of the most spirited defense of the Reagan policies, vision, administration that I've ever heard. It was entirely inspiring, and I was working at a news station in Kansas City at the time -- a station that carries my program even to this day, KMBZ -- and I had my first interview with Gingrich at that point. He was clearly inspirational. Now, something has changed since then. I have suspected -- I've not known, but I have suspected -- that Newt is advising the Huckabee campaign.

I don't know this. It's just a wild guess, but based on this comment, "The Reagan era is over. The George W. Bush era is over. We're at a point in time we're about to start redefining, as a number of people have started talking..." Yes, they are. Every one of these Republicans is starting to talk about redefining the party, and this has been going on since the early days of this, not just now. If you recall, all during last year, I told you this was my big concern: that Reaganism and conservatism were going to be redefined so as to fit the mold of whoever these guys on our primary roster are. One of the things that Newt said is "redefine the nature of the Republican Party in response to what the country needs." Something about that rubs me wrong. Something about that sort of grates on me. The Republican Party is supposed to sit out there and I guess (slurps) moisten its index finger, stick it in the air, find out what people want, and be that? That's not who we are! Now, it may be who populists are. In fact, it is exactly who populists are. Even if you have no intention of following through on what you plan to do as you promise all these wonderful things to your supporters, as a populist. But this is not what the Republican Party has been. It's what the Democrat Party had been.

"Figure out what the country needs" and then do it? We know what the country needs already! That's our ace-in-the-hole. One of the things Newt said in this interview was, "Far beyond just how do I subsidize your heating oil, how do I make it unnecessary for you to buy as much heating oil? And there are dramatic things we can do in that conversation." Now, "How do I...?" He means a president, running a campaign, not him. "How do I subsidize your heating oil?" We Republicans are going to talk about subsidizing people's heating oil now, and we're going to call that conservatism? If you want to talk about that, fine! If that's what you want the Republican Party to be, then be that and go ahead and say that's what you want, but don't call it conservatism. "There are dramatic things we can do in that conversation. I want to make it unnecessary for you to buy as much heating oil"? Now, conservation is great, folks. Conservation is great, but conservation does not equal growth. To sit out there and say people need to buy less and less heating oil, okay. Buy natural gas furnace, or any number of things, but if this country has always been about: "You need heating oil? It's going to be there. You need gasoline? It's going to be there."

The burden is not on you to conserve so that it's always there! It's economic. Capitalism is the greatest force for change in the world! Mark Steyn has a brilliant piece today on this very subject. It's how capitalism forces major innovation and change, not politicians, not Washington, not government. They don't force any kind of change other than in primaries with perception and attitudes and make people think that they're going to be better off, but it is capitalism that forces genuine change throughout culture and throughout society. Newt could have just as easily said here that conservative principles don't change, that the Reagan coalition is simply looking for leadership and that we need to bring more creative policy alternatives to the table than we have in the recent past. But that's not what he said. He said, "The era of Reagan is over. ... It's the end of the Reagan era." It is not. If the Reagan era is over, if the Reagan coalition is dead, what replaced it? Could somebody tell me? Precisely nothing has replaced it, and that's why so many people are scratching their heads, why so many people are a little nervous, because there isn't any real leadership out there that causes people and inspires people to get behind it and go rah-rah and make certain things happen.

I mean, is there a Gingrich coalition that has replaced the Reagan coalition? For that matter, what is the McCain coalition? If we're going to have a new era, what is the McCain era? What is the Huckabee era? What is their winning coalition? They don't have one. You know, all this sounds like Third Way kind of talk, the triangulation of the Clinton years in the nineties. But I don't know what the McCain era would be, and I don't know what the Huckabee coalition is. They don't have a coalition. They're out trying to get votes of independents and Democrats. They're pandering to moderates and independents. Folks, I just want you to think about this: What happens if either of these two guys happen to win, attracting the votes of independents, moderates, the Jell-Os, and Democrats? Does that not equal the demise of the Republican Party? Do you think McCain's out there actually trying to get Republican votes? Is Huckabee trying to get Republican votes? Romney is. Giuliani is. Fred Thompson certainly is. But if we have a nominee that is a nominee on the basis of moderate and independent and Democrat voters, then what happens to the Republican Party?

Do they not know this? If they do know this, is this their aim? Is their objective, for whatever reason -- sour grapes, they don't think they can win as Republicans because they're really not Republicans. Is this the objective here, to redefine (or maybe ruin) the Republican Party? Even so, the coalition of Democrats, independents, moderates, the Jell-Os, that is not a coalition. They don't have a coalition. McCain doesn't have one. Huckabee doesn't have one. They want to transform the party into a center-left party like these so-called conservative parties in Europe, and to do that, they've gotta say, "The Reagan era is over," and they have to embrace expediency, which, in the end, of course, is a losing proposition. Let me hit you right between the eyes here. If you want to find out what would happen to the country with a McCain or Huckabee president, take a look at what's happened to Governor Schwarzenegger in California. Here was a guy who actively ran as a conservative and as a Republican and, as you know, was elected. We all know now what has happened to him.

He has abandoned all of that, and look at the state of California with their budget mess, their increased taxes. Now we've got this emergency session that the governor has called. That's just a blank check to raise more taxes. California runs the risk of becoming the next Michigan. What Schwarzenegger has done to California is what non-Republicans would do to the United States running as Republicans: disaster. Of course, the Republican Party conservatives are nonfactors in any of it. Defending liberty takes leadership and guts. Promoting Big Government doesn't. Promoting Big Government is liberalism, and that's easy. It's one of the easiest things that you can do, to run out and simply say, "Well, government's going to fix this. I'm going to have to a plan here. My plan's going to do this, and it involves the government." If conservatism is dead, and if the Reagan era is dead, then I assume that this means the Declaration of Independence is dead as well, that the era of the Declaration has come and gone. Now, what we actually have going on now are people posing as serious thinkers (a common thread in all of this, folks) that conservatism is dead. By the way, that's what the Reagan coalition is, after all. The major elements of conservatism combined into a political movement, is what Reaganism was and of course they're now saying, "That era is gone. We need to replace it with something else." (sigh)

Well, conservatism isn't dead because it cannot be dead. Conservatism is not manmade. Conservatism is a philosophy. It's not a scheme. It's not a plan to figure out what the American people need and want, and then give it to them. That's populism! Conservatism is a philosophy based on God-given natural rights. The Declaration of Independence, is that dead? Of course not! What's dead is leadership on the Republican side, and because there is a lack of leadership of someone who the substantive understanding of liberty and the political skills to advance it, we get all this cockamamie nonsense about the death of our principles. Our principles are not dead! Our principles cannot die. I'll tell you, in a lot of ways this reminds me of Jimmy Carter and his malaise speech. He blamed the American people for his miserable failures as president. Now we have conservatives and conservative wannabes, many of whom have held high office or hold high office or speak and write from formerly conservative outposts, who blame conservatives for their own miserable failures. What is lacking is not ideas and principles. What's lacking is the right people to speak those ideas and principles, folks. Admit it.

You know it and I know it, and that's why this Republican roster of candidates has always been somewhat disquieting, and we know that it is because if you look at it, it's pretty much evenly spread, the support around all the top-tier people. Look what happens, by the way, when one of them happens to pipe up. Look what happens. I have a headline: "A Combative Thompson Sways Voters -- 'But then last night -- we hadn't even been thinking about him -- all of a sudden it was clear he was the one,' said Mr. Berenberk, a retired teacher. 'The bluntness, the forcefulness. He was really impressive.'" He's talking about Thompson in the last South Carolina debate. So candidate aside -- put Thompson aside for a moment -- when conservative truths are heard, it's an affecting and effective message. People have revelations when they hear it. They just haven't been hearing it from people who want to lead the party and who want to lead the country. So what's lacking here is not ideas and not principles, but the right people to speak them and the right people to develop strategies to win elections based on those ideas and principles. What's lacking, if you will, is intellectual and political leadership. Let me be even more specific. Where's the Russell Kirk? Where's the Bill Buckley? Where's the Milton Friedman of our day? Where's the Barry Goldwater, the Ronald Reagan? We have people who claim to hold the mantle of these greats, and yet they also claim that the mantle to hold is not worth holding, that we gotta redefine it because the era is over. If you believe that liberty, national security, free enterprise, faith, and the Constitution are dead, then what are you saying? On what do you base your definition of conservatism? If we don't properly diagnose the problem, we aren't going to be able to fix this.

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