I received an astute e-mail message from my good friend, Tom Pauken, a former Chairman of the Texas Republican Party and the Director of the ACTION federal agency during the Reagan administration. He wrote:
“We are paying a heavy price for the systematic suppression of independent conservative political leadership that began with the presidency of George H. W. Bush and continued through the presidency of his son.
“The rise of the tea party and return of the independent conservatives to battle in 2010 has resulted in a lot of new leaders emerging on the scene. We have a good farm club for the future, but our major league team that would have been there had the Reaganites remained the dominant force in the Republican Party has been decimated, scattered, retired, or simply died off.”
“How do you pull together a conservative team of outsiders — similar to the one gathered together by Ronald Reagan and brought to Washington to take on the political elites — quickly? I don't mean to be blunt, but I don't think the current crop of candidates have even thought through this problem or realize the kind of principled, outside talent it will take to address the mess a new administration will inherit.
“I fear that the Bush retreads and the inside-the-beltway group that ostensibly is ‘on our side’ will simply replace the Obamaites, instead of the wholesale personnel changes we need throughout the executive branch of government.”
Pauken’s observations and comments are extremely important.
The 2010 elections brought encouraging victories at all levels around the country. None were greater than in the races for the state legislatures. Republicans gained about 700 seats in the legislatures and picked up 20 legislative chambers.
Some of these newly elected state legislators will be our future governors, congressmen, and senators. And, yes, I believe several future presidents are part of this freshman class of state legislators.
I can see the future and it looks very bright for conservatism. But mitigating my enthusiasm is a realization that, for several reasons, the present situation is not so keen.
After the Reagan administration, solid Reaganites were shunned by the first Bush administration. At one cabinet agency, the Reagan political appointees were immediately shown the door after the inauguration, even though the Bush people were not yet appointed.
The Bush administration preferred career bureaucrats to temporarily run the agencies, rather than holdover Reagan people.
Three Reagan appointees from Texas who I know tried in vain to find new appointments in the Bush administration. Finally, one of them realized that all three of them were well known at the White House and, because of their longtime conservative activism in the Lone Star State, were likely on some kind of list of persons to be avoided.
There were a few “exceptions that proved the rule” regarding the antagonism of the Bush people to Reagan appointees. But the election of George H. W. Bush significantly “changed the game” in government.
Somehow, during the 2000 campaign, the second President Bush was able to convince conservatives he was one of them. But when he took office, boy was that a different story. If you’d like to refresh your memory about those eight years, you can read all about it in my book, "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause."
Not only were the governmental policies of the two Bush administrations detrimental, they excluded a generation of conservatives from gaining the experience that would have helped us to govern in the future.
The Bush regimes also did tremendous harm to the conservative movement, which did little to fight their policies.
After the GOP lost control of both the House and Senate, I ran polls online and at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) asking who was responsible for the disastrous election results. The respondents chose as the chief culprit those conservative leaders who kept silent when the GOP became the party of big government.
Because the big-government Republican politicians in the Bush administration and Congress did not receive criticism from conservative leaders and conservative media, they felt free to continue down that same path until they were tossed out of office by the voters.
Now that Barack Obama is president, conservative leaders no longer “pull their punches” in criticizing excessive government spending, dangerous deficits, proposed amnesty for illegal aliens, endless wars, and bailouts of giant corporations.
And at some point, there will be a change in GOP leaders in the House and Senate. The ties to Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Dennis Hastert, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell will be broken and congressional Republicans will be led by younger, principled conservative leaders.
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