It is but one of many questions about today's Republican party and how Ronald Reagan did transform basic GOP thinking on issue after issue.
But one thing that eludes those seeking office is what is a fundamental difference between conservative economic policy vs. liberal/left economic policy.
This piece by Henry Olsen at The Corner on National Review Online seeks to remind today's GOP that a big reason why people who might be aligned with conservative economics but find those explaining it not so engaged with the average American, working man and woman.
As Mr. Olsen noted that Mr. Reagan made clear that all of America was involved in the concept of job creation. Essentially, Mr. Reagan made clear that he probably would not dismiss, out of hand, the labor union-backed efforts to get fast-food workers a "living" wage of about $15 an hour. He would use the opportunity to point out how the worker is as important as the entrepreneur.
What I see, and yes have been part of, is that most conservatives see the entrepreneur as the hero and the worker as some kind of lout. After all, the entrepreneur is putting his or her money on the line. The worker should be glad to have the job. Mitt Romney blew his whole campaign by saying the infamous 47% line at a private fund raiser that was videotaped by an intrepid lefty truth-sqauder.
Note to GOP candidates for office. Assume that nothing, not even a private fund raiser is private. Don't say anything that you would not say in any other campaign appearance.
I admit that while Mr. Romney had a correct point, it did kind of sort of play right into the hands of the class warfare warriors. I mean, Mr. Reagan talked about Welfare Queens. Yet with a negative, there was the positive with Mr. Reagan.
What the left has done with success is create the impression that they are always on the side of the worker. Maybe they pay lip service to the small businessman/woman. But when one looks at the modern Democrat party, they are in the hip pocket of the hip, lefty billionaire businessmen/women. Yet the Republican party is to this day seen as the party of the rich. Again, compare Mr. Romney and Mr. Reagan in articulating the basic economic message.
If you don't get that, here is the one time Mr. Reagan even discussed the entrepreneur in a speech in the 1980s as president:
We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are not heroes, they just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they’re on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They’re individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life.
Now, I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your,” because I’m addressing the heroes of whom I speak — you, the citizens of this blessed land.
There was no 47% reference I read. There was no us vs. them that the left promotes. There was nothing along the lines of class welfare.
What Mr. Reagan was saying is that anyone can be and should aspire to be that entrepreneur. But that the worker is as much of value as the entrepreneur.
Thus, what Republican today does that?
It appears that Sen. Mitch McConnell was sort of trying to do that in a speech at an American Enterprise Institute, AEI, conference last week.
I know, I know.
Why would I quote something from this RINO*? He is not a conservative at all! He is part of the problem.
Well, I think that Sen. McConnell fits the He's been in Washington too long category. But in my theory of the broken clock, which is right twice a day, Sen. McConnell stumbled into some truth.
This is the highlight of what he said. And a warning, he does take a swipe at Ayn Rand. But not really if you open up and read what he said:
And yet, I think it must also be admitted that in our rush to defend the American entrepreneur from the daily depredations of an administration that seems to view any profit-making enterprise with deep suspicion — that we have often lost sight of the fact that our average voter is not John Galt. It’s a good impulse, to be sure. But for most Americans, whose daily concerns revolve around aging parents, long commutes, shrinking budgets, and obscenely high tuition bills, these hymns to entrepreneurialism are, as a practical matter, largely irrelevant. And the audience for them is probably a lot smaller than we think. So I do think we’d do well as a party to get down to the basics. As Mona Charen recently put it, ‘Less talk of job creators and more talk of job-earners would be welcome.’”
I think that Sen. McConnell is correct. The average voter is not John Galt. Sure, they may get a lot of his overall point, but they don't want to get government that completely out of one's life. And many understand that a government that gets so big can take away a lot of what we come to know as rights and or basic forms or norms of everyday life.
I recommend reading Mr. Olsen's article in National Affairs that I have linked as a brief history primer and a good road map to getting the Republican party on track to explain what makes conservative economic policy superior to liberal/left economic policy.
Basic Republican governing philosophy is simple.
Government is necessary. But it should be a little and limited as possible. It should be bottom-up and not top down. Government is best starting at the local level, cities, counties and states. The federal government should be as limited as possible. It should not be concerned with Podunk, Iowa as much as New York City.
Mr. Olsen is onto something here. And another actual politician, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, also gets it.
That the GOP must be a party that working class voters and women can and should be a part of.
That is what we call today the Reagan Democrats. Most of those voters are already Republicans today.
But, what does the consultant class that dominates the current GOP think about those voters? Eh, not so much. Thus they push so-called comprehensive immigration "reform". They do not care to really explain how allowing many low-income workers to become Americans will help them. Hint: It won't.
When Mr. Reagan dealt with immigration reform, he at least had the stones to say it was amnesty and it was when the economy was in the middle of a full-steam recovery.
Reagan Democrats are out there for the picking. They will become good Republicans and already have a lot of conservatism already in their bones. They are the ones that sign up to join whatever branch of the armed forces. They are the ones that are traditional in outlook. Many are church-goers and temple-goers and mosque-goers. They do make for the best workers anywhere.
And they go beyond race. Anyone can be and is right now a Reagan Democrat that would love to look at the Republican party. But they don't look at the party because they have rightful misgivings about it. And no, it's not because of their stand on immigration policy.
It is because most of those that want to look at the GOP and are still Democrats and or "independent" still think that the party is the environs of the eeeeevvvvviiiiilllll, filthy, stinking RICH folks.
Of course I can show how untrue that is, but why use that? Because most of those people will not believe it. That at this point, much of corporate America is in the hip pocket of the Democrat party. It does not matter.
One needs to speak to the people in a way that Mr. Reagan did. And one of the reasons is that at one time, Mr. Reagan was a Democrat. He was at a time that Democrats were more like Harry S Truman and John F. Kennedy. That they spoke of a better America for all and not for a fill-in-the-group of the moment.
Of course it would be hard to find a lot of former Democrats that become Republicans and can explain a simple fact the way that Ronald Reagan did. And yes, how the United States is a great nation and that the sky's-the-limit, not a time of restraint and or malaise. And yes, that there are rights and wrongs in the United States.
So it does come down to people like Mr. Santorum to talk to the regular folks and say to them, yes, there is a place for you in the Republican party. Yes, I understand the economic anxiety you feel. Yes, the tax structure is out of touch with how every day people live. Yes, the United States has lost it's moral way. Yes, the United States is the greatest nation in the world and I am not ashamed of it.
It is because people like Mr. Santorum and Mr. Reagan believe those ideas. And yes, even Sen. McConnell finally treaded to that understanding.
Here is the thing.
The Republican party will expand beyond the White middle class when it can articulate that those ideas are not just the purview of Whites but of all Americans. We can not have one of the wealthiest men run for president and essentially write off 47% of the potential voting public as government freeloaders. And on that point, Mr. Romney had it somewhat correct. But it can not be done flippantly or off the cuff.
I don't know if Mr. Santorum is the one to carry the Reagan mantle in 2016. He currently has a great position being out of government for making the conservative case to a wide audience. Some like Sen. Marco Rubio have the opportunity as well.
But if we do not reach out to the next generation of Reagan Democrats effectively and in governing, the conservative cause and the Republican party will truly be on the margins of political life in the United States.