The politics of addition, not division. That is the legacy of Ronald Reagan. I watched a large part of an interview with the former president's son, Michael, as he promoted his book about Reagan. It seems this book is quite timely, given the squabbling among the GOP and the need for real leadership as we head into the 2012 presidential election.
Michael Reagan said, "Republicans quote Reagan, Democrats study him". That was his response to a question about why he thought Barack Obama was reading a book about his father.
Will Michael Reagan come under fire for acknowledging that sometimes social issues must be tempered and allow fiscal issues be at the forefront in an election year? This is not to say that anyone is trying to ignore social conservatives or discredit socially conservative issues, it is to state the obvious. Yet, those who have an economic interest will continue to stir the pot and try to separate out the social conservatives in the GOP. Does anyone question Michael Reagan's social conservative credentials?
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, said during his speech before CPAC 2011 Saturday that it is important to elect a Republican president in 2012. Some took issue with that - that it is most important to elect a fiscally and socially conservative as president in 2012. Well, would a fiscally and socially conservative candidate be the nominee for the Democrats? Of course not. Sometimes it seems that those who prefer to identify as conservatives and not simply as Republicans do more harm than good. Maybe sometimes deliberately. Some multi-millionaires preaching social conservatism above all else come to mind from the world of talk radio and specific television shows, too.
It was encouraging to read that the enrollment numbers were up to a record high level for the CPAC 2011 conference in Washington, D.C. over the weekend. It is good that special interest groups didn't squash attendance of an annual conservative event
simply to have a temper tantrum for attention. The mature conservatives won the argument and the event maintained a big tent. No one leg of the traditional three legged stool of the Republican party should try to edge out the other two legs.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels gave perhaps the best speech televised during the CPAC 2011 event. He is the one who publicly advised that fiscal issues are at the forefront this time and he was soundly criticized by those who make lots of money off social issues. Regular common sense people knew what was meant by his remark. And, they agreed. Daniels proved himself a true leader with his speech. Common sense is sorely needed in politics today.
Republicans are quite skilled at eating our own. Ronald Reagan himself would not be an acceptable candidate today to many and that is a shame. Those who quote Reagan with blind loyalty seem sadly lacking in knowledge of the man himself. He would not be happy with those who divide the party. Remember the Eleventh Commandment? Remember the 80% rule of Reagan? That is what brought the world President Ronald Reagan.
See, the speeches at CPAC 2011 were full of socially conservative rhetoric. Every speaker was thoughtful and didn't leave much room to doubt his or her sincerity of belief. It didn't matter one bit if the sanctimonious far right boycotted or not, the conference went on and the speeches were full of red meat for everyone.
All that the boycotts accomplished was the obvious - a staged outrage for publicity and providing fodder for the opposition party, the Democrats. The social conservatives are being led down a dangerous path. No one can live up to that kind of smug behavior. It makes them look afraid of an evolving society. It makes then look weak - as though they cannot defend a traditional marriage. And for those who would utter the foolish meme that supporters of gay marriage or civil unions would destroy traditional marriage and traditional families? Look around. Heterosexuals have done a fine job of that already.
It is time for the Republicans and conservatives to unite for the sake of our country. It is time to actually be more Reagan-like, not just spout quotes when it is convenient to an argument. It is time to work together to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.
Walk the walk. We all will win.