I am one of the few people still active in politics and public policy who was there at the beginning of the conservative movement back in the early 1960s.
One of a conservative’s many tasks is to check out political candidates to support or oppose.
Based on my interactions with tea party and conservative leaders and activists, I have more confidence in America’s future than at any time in the past 50 years.
Each group has its own list of issues on which it is focused. I don’t mean to be, or even sound, presumptuous, but after almost 50 years of involvement in conservative politics at the national level, I have had far more experience with politicians than all but a few conservatives.
But because the overwhelming majority of tea party leaders are relatively new organized politics, I will pass along some of the things I have learned.
The entire future of America rests on your shoulders. I humbly suggest that you take these five additional ideas into consideration in analyzing your candidates.
1. Put the Constitution front and center in your campaign.
We are past the point when we want to hear from candidates that they support lower taxes, balanced budgets, and traditional values. Quite frankly, many, if not most, liberals say the same.
We want to know the candidates’ views on applying the Constitution to every aspect of their public office, especially every piece of legislation they vote on and every policy question. Quiz candidates on their knowledge of the Constitution and other documents of our Founding Fathers.
2. Who you walk with is who you are.
Personnel is policy. You will not have conservative programs and policies without conservative personnel. Whenever I saw Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s and 70s, he was surrounded by conservatives such as Ed Meese, Lyn Nofziger, Judge Bill Clark, Paul Laxalt, Dick Allen, and Marty Anderson. So it was natural when he walked into the White House that conservatives (not enough, but many) came with him.
As Ronald Reagan said in his 1976 presidential campaign, “We need new leaders unfettered by old ties and old relationships.”
Simply put, if a candidate says all the right things but is not surrounded with principled conservatives as his friends, advisers, and staffers, he will not long be a principled conservative once in office.
3. We must go on offense.
Tea party participants know this, but it’s worth repeating: It’s no longer sufficient for politicians simply to vote against tax increases or for tax cuts, or just oppose Obama’s agenda. The size of government has been growing at an alarming rate since the 1930s, regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in office, and the cause of liberty has been on the defense.
It’s past time for those who love America and revere its Constitution to go on offense. Any sports team which spends most of its time on defense is a certain loser.
Therefore, push candidates to tell you not just what they are against (that’s easy), but how and where they will work and lead to abolish big-government programs, reduce unnecessary government regulation, increase our liberties, and return America to constitutional government and put the other side on defense. Politicians, once elected, are surrounded by lobbyists and others wanting more from government. The campaign trail is the time to get them to commit to decreasing the size of government.
For instance, it’s great to be against Obamacare. Is your candidate committed to repealing this monstrosity?
4. We need new Republican leaders.
When Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, it had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama. Congress and White House were lost because of the disastrous leadership of George Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell.
Insist that candidates vote for new Republican (and Democratic, if they are Democrats) congressional leaders. Only 20 percent of the American people identify as Republicans, but 40 percent say they are conservatives. This speaks volumes about the failure of Republican leaders. Conservatives should not expect that we will move towards small and constitutional government with the present Republican congressional leadership. They were there for the expansion of government under President Bush and were part of all that. What makes anyone think they are suddenly small-government, constitutional Republicans now?
5. Look for boat-rocker candidates.
If you say you are a conservative and are not a boat rocker, you are not going to contribute to saving America. In fact, you are part of the problem.
Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are boat rockers. They regularly challenged the big government policies of their own party, including Senate Republicans, and consequently are unpopular with their colleagues. But unlike most other Republican Senators, they are wildly popular with the grass roots, and they are providing major leadership for the cause of liberty.
In summary, look for candidates who:
- Campaign to return America to constitutional government
- Surround themselves with friends, advisers, mentors, and staffers who are principled conservatives
- Will take the fight to the Left by going on offense
- Pledge to vote for new Republican/Democratic congressional leadership
- Are boat rockers
All who love freedom and desire to turn America to the constitutional principles of our founders will be deeply in your debt for your sacrifice, work, and leadership — should you seek out these qualities in a candidate. And if a candidate doesn’t meet these criteria, then don’t support that candidate.
The entire future of America will rest on your choices.
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