Is anyone running for president in 2008 a real Reagan conservative? How do we tell? Some voters, especially evangelicals, are ready to fold up their tents and go home! Other voters figure since there’s no more Reagan there’s no more real conservative candidate, so why vote? So what do we do in this year of limited options? First, let’s define Reagan Conservatism.
Ronald Reagan’s conservatism was shaped by Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. In When Character Was King (a must read for all wannabe Reaganites), Peggy Noonan writes: …it spoke to him (Goldwater’s book). It reflected his belief that the proper stance of a patriot right now was against a bigger government and for a smaller one. Just about the only part of the government he wanted to see grow was the armed forces, because he felt America must have an unsurpassed and unsurpassable military arsenal in order to protect freedom in the world. (Bold emphasis added)
For those of you self-described Reagan conservatives, who believe we can separate ourselves into three separate groups, please remember that conservatism is a three-legged stool, not three separate compartments. An engine can run on less than one cylinder albeit not very smoothly. However, a stool that is missing one or more of its legs is useless. So it is with conservatism.
Reagan described this clearly on March 20, 1981 in Washington DC to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
Because ours is a consistent philosophy of government, we can be very clear: We do not have a separate social agenda, a separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda. Just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners, and permit acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms just as we allow such acknowledgments in other public institutions.
All the Republican presidential candidates say they are Reagan conservatives. Are they really…does each of them hold to all three pillars of Reagan Conservatism?
Rudy Giuliani – this shouldn’t take too long. Rudy Giuliani believes in a woman’s right to choose; he ran as a pro-choice candidate against Hillary Clinton. I’ve heard many of my fellow conservatives say that Rudy is strong on national defense and a nation needs to survive in order to fight the abortion issue. To this I say a nation does not deserve to exist if it will not protect the unborn. I think a little revisit of our Declaration of Independence is in order:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Life belongs to the born and unborn and it is the responsibility of government to protect those rights; our government has not only failed to protect these rights since 1973, but has protected the rights of those who have butchered 50 million Americans.
This is what Reagan said about abortion in his pro-life tract:
Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.
If you are pro-choice you are not a Reagan Conservative; you fail the social conservative test. Sorry Rudy.
Mitt Romney – why are we even having this discussion? Romney’s positions have flipped-flopped so much if he were running as a Democrat we Republicans would be rooting for him to win he’d be so easy to beat! Remember what John Kerry said that got labeled flip-flopper?
What about Mitt Romney? Here are some…um…disparities…you decide if he’s trustworthy.
Would Mitt Romney fight for the rights of the unborn? In a 2005 Boston Globe editorial Romney wrote: Because Massachusetts is decidedly pro-choice, I have respected the state’s democratically held view. I have not attempted to impose my own views on the pro-choice majority.
This is a decidedly different approach from Ronald Reagan’s: Over the first two years of my Administration I have closely followed and assisted efforts in Congress to reverse the tide of abortion — efforts of Congressmen, Senators and citizens responding to an urgent moral crisis. Regrettably, I have also seen the massive efforts of those who, under the banner of “freedom of choice,” have so far blocked every effort to reverse nationwide abortion-on-demand.
Leadership demands that you step into the “views of the pro-choice majority” and demand that this heinous practice be stopped. Reagan was unsuccessful yet he did not let that discourage him: Despite the formidable obstacles before us, we must not lose heart. This is not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court decision that denied the value of certain human lives. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 was not overturned in a day, or a year, or even a decade. At first, only a minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters; but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed. They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen, to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply engrained in the hearts of our people to remain forever suppressed. But the great majority of the American people have not yet made their voices heard, and we cannot expect them to — any more than the public voice arose against slavery — until the issue is clearly framed and presented.
Why didn’t Governor Romney spend his time as governor educating Massachusetts on the evils of abortion? More from his editorial: Except on matters of the starkest clarity like the issue of banning partial-birth abortions, there is not now a decisive national consensus on abortion. Some parts of the country have prolife majorities, others have pro-choice majorities. People of good faith on both sides of the issue should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums — with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that democratic majorities will prevail. We will never have peace on the abortion issue, much less a consensus of conscience, until democracy is allowed to work its way.
To Governor Romney abortion is an issue; for Ronald Reagan is was more than an issue, it was about two lives: What, then, is the real issue? I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives — the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Why else do we call a pregnant woman a mother? I have also said that anyone who doesn’t feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
I want a president who will “impose (his) own views on the pro-choice majority.” I want a president who will “insist on protecting the unborn.”
It is clear, at least to me, that Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are missing the most important leg of conservatism; the social agenda.
Next installment we’ll look at the rest of the presidential candidates.