A good decade ago, in a college political science class, we read this essay penned by Harry Jaffa, with a key memorable passage:
The end of the Cold War has also brought an end to the remission of the disease of moral relativism that is corroding the life of western civilization. It would certainly seem that the salvation of the West must come, if it is to come, from the United States. The salvation of the United States, if it is to come, must come from the Republican Party. And the salvation of the Republican Party, if it is to come, must come from the conservative movement within it. And the salvation of the conservative movement, if it is to come, must come from the renewal and reaffirmation of the principles of the American Founding, embodied above all in the Declaration of Independence, such a reaffirmation as happened in the events that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln.
As someone in class quipped, since few so well understood and appreciated Lincoln’s affirmation of our nation’s Founding principles as the great Straussian sage of Claremont, essentially the salvation of the West must come from Harry Jaffa. Tongue-in-cheek, to be sure.
The academic debates within the conservative movement a decade ago seem to have lost much of their flavor in our current economic and political environment. Quite simply, people are looking for solutions. Bold, fiscally conservative reforms are needed to rescue our governments from themselves.
Soren Dayton is right: The true laboratories for The Next Right’s successful reforms are coming at the state level. You have to go there – if not to read what Dayton writes – at least to view the New York Times graphic showing the devastating effect of deficits on numerous state governments.
There are opportunities here for Republicans to fix the brand. We can demand no tax increases. Perhaps more importantly, we can demand cost-saving reforms in government services. The leaders and winners of these fights will be the ones who will have earned their place as party leaders in the future.
Once again, the salvation for our party and our future leaders don’t reside in Washington. The real action will be in the state capitals. Outside of stopping some bailouts, the real action will reside there.
A broad but principled coalition is needed to bring about such reforms. Sparing the citizens of the United States from the harmful scourge of government debt, as a way to help save the West more generally, should be the primary goal. Reclaiming the Republican brand is a secondary benefit.
If the GOP wants to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility – successfully achieved through creative solutions – here and now is the opportunity for Republicans in the Colorado statehouse and others across the country. A good place to start? Financial transparency.
The alternative to getting the job done is unthinkable. We need more of “the constrained vision”, if it’s not already too late.