Twenty-eight years ago, America elected the greatest president in my lifetime, and in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.
Ronald Reagan changed the world. Hope was in the air in the 1980s—a sense of renewal, a sense that the present was bright and the future brighter. His policies were rooted in truth and in hope, and because of that they worked. They were rooted in the understanding that people will soar when they are not stifled by oppressive government-—be it the pervasive, evil oppression of Godless communism, or the relatively lesser, misguided oppression of high taxes and big bureaucracy. They were rooted in what Ronald Reagan believed, and what he reminded us that we believed too. Because Reagan’s policies worked, life improved, in America, and around the globe. And because Reagan’s exuberant optimism never failed, we believed that it would just get better and better. Through his strength and his success, he reshaped the world.
But as great as he was, Reagan was merely a man, and men make mistakes. Often, great men make great mistakes.
The biggest political mistake of Ronald Reagan’s life was the selection of George Bush XLI as his running mate. An establishment liberal, Bush was the antithesis of Reagan. But because he was perceived as Reagan’s heir, Bush was elected president 19 years ago. And, to its great detriment, the Republican Party has been cast in his image, not Ronald Reagan’s, ever since.
And that brings us to where we are today, a dark day when the Republican presidential nominee is a philosophical vacuum, a conservative of convenience, and something of a flake.
John McCain is a disgrace to the party of Reagan. His namesake legislation tramples freedom of political speech, the cornerstone of republican government. Because he does not demonstrate a sliver of Constitutional fidelity, there is no reason to expect him to be able to recognize, much less appoint, judges who do. His amnesty legislation undermines the Rule of Law. His opposition to drilling in ANWR shows a resistance to commonsense policy that could reduce both energy prices and American dependence of foreign oil. His support for federal funding of stem-cell research belies his claim of a pro-life record (and expands big government). His understanding of economics is embarrassing; as he points fingers at the bogeymen du jour–Wall Street greed, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies–he says nothing that reflects any textured understanding of the market economy, how it works, why it is the best means of creating prosperity. Instead, he backed Bush XLIII’s outrageous, unpopular bail-out—flakily suspending his campaign to rush to Washington to accomplish, well, nothing–and even wants to go further, asking the taxpayers to help keep irresponsible borrowers in homes they never should have bought.
But won’t Barack Obama be worse? In the short term, yes. But the next few years are going to be bad no matter which of the two leading proponents of big government is elected a week from today, especially since, thanks to the Bush-led destruction of the Republican “brand”, the liberal Democrats are likely to gain seats in both houses of Congress. And since Sen. McCain is on the Democrats’ side so often, he’s likely to go along with many of their prosperity-crushing policies. In the cases when he doesn’t, they may well have the votes to override his veto.
If McCain is president, thanks to conservative votes, it will be McCain, and his fellow anti-conservatives–both those philosophically opposed to small government and those so philosophically unmoored that they have no convictions at all except power–who continue to shape the right-of-center side of America’s political conversation. And that will mean continuing to fight destructive Democrat policies with destructive Democrat-lite policies.
Rejecting McCain, on the other hand, gives us time and space and, most of all, integrity, to recover the principles that made Ronald Reagan the most successful president in modern times, and, in so doing, repair the conservative cause.
My fellow conservatives, please vote for America’s long-term prosperity. Please vote for the recovery of conservative principles. Please vote for hope. Please vote against John McCain.