Jewish World Review July 19, 2004 / 1 Menachem-Av, 5764
Let them be heard
It has been about six weeks since we buried President Reagan, but it seems like Republicans are on the verge of forgetting what he taught us.
GOP has assembled a list of prime-time speakers who might be equally as comfortable speaking in Boston at the Democratic National Convention. These "non-icky" Republicans include "moderate" pro-abortion rights Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, "maverick" Sen. John McCain, Republican-in-Name-Only New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and "socially liberal" Rudy Giuliani.
"Some big names, but where are the conservative voices?" I asked Bush/Cheney Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman. "The President and Vice-President are the two most important speakers at the convention," he replied. He didn't get to the heart of the matter, which is why the most conservative speaker at the convention other than the candidates themselves is a Democrat Zell Miller.
One gets the distinct feeling that social conservatives are being treated as a quaint off-shoot of the GOP, rather than as its heart and soul.
It's time to remember who made the modern GOP what it is today.
Before Ronald Reagan brought social conservatives into the GOP (many of those were "Reagan Democrats" who parted ways with the Democrats on issues like abortion, pornography, and welfare spending), it was a minority party that had been beaten consistently by the Democrats for almost half a century.
Social conservatives have been and remain the most loyal supporters of Pres. Bush and the rest of the GOP, even when the GOP's policies have not always been in their economic interest. (Can you say "illegal immigration"?) They make up the party's all-important base. With only about 6 percent of the votes up for grabs in this election, turnout will be more crucial than ever (for both parties).
Without the conservative vote, Pres. Bush would struggle to carry a single state much less win the 270 electoral votes he needs for the White House.
Today social conservatives are deeply concerned about the direction of the country on a host of cultural issues. They want more than to hear from the President a few times a year in a weekly radio address. They need to feel like their views are being respected, not like their votes are taken for granted. They resent the unbridled power of the judiciary. They feel like their bedrock values are under constant assault by a culture that devalues life and rewards depravity.
Under these circumstances, it is foolish beyond words for the GOP only to highlight speakers who openly and actively disagree with its members on key issues. Showing off your "big tent" philosophy is all well and good. But let's not forget that the tent was built by social conservatives who were willing to do the hard work to rescue the GOP from the country club.
A good late-addition to the Republican National Convention slate of speakers would be Sen. Rick Santorum. He's third-highest ranking Senate Republican, in his mid-40s he's the youngest member of the GOP leadership. He's articulate, passionate, gutsy, and smart. He won state-wide office in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania four times (in 1990, at the age of 32, he won a Congressional seat), then won his Senate seat in the great Republican Revolution of 1994.
Most recently he was the GOP's point man on the gay marriage issue. He didn't flinch when Senators Ted Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg called defenders of traditional marriage "bigoted" and "mean-spirited." He spoke eloquently about how this issue is being forced by imperialist judges, Santorum said, "in utter disregard of our traditions and beliefs."
Luring social conservatives away from the Democratic Party among them southern Baptists, and northern Catholics is one of the most important political shifts of the past generation. Republicans succeeded in making Democrats the minority party. Republicans should be proud of that accomplishment proud enough to showcase prominent conservative thinkers on its convention roster.
By keeping the conservatives under wraps, the GOP is handing the media another club to use against the President. I can already hear Judy Woodfruff on CNN: "Up next, we'll hear from John McCain. Senator McCain has been sharply critical of the President on everything from gun rights to health care reform, not to mention the GOP's deeply divisive and failed effort to amend the Constitution."
In the 1980s, political experts predicted that President Reagan would pay a steep political price for being pro-life, for even mentioning the "sanctity of life." Reagan ignored the high-priced consultants and stuck with what he knew to be true. He was reelected in a landslide. President Bush should ignore the same experts who are telling him to keep the conservatives locked in the basement. Let them be heard.
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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show and the author of the just released "Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America". Comment by clicking here.
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06/08/04: The Reagan legacy: It was about more than his optimism
03/30/04: Friends, What Friends?
02/27/04: Order in the Court!
02/17/04: Have they no decency?
01/22/04: The Dean bubble
01/09/04: Jumping conservatives at the border
11/20/03: The Media Misses the Point Again
10/29/03: The attack of the open border elites
09/11/03: Blame America redux
09/04/03: Back To School, or Back to...Sex?
08/27/03: The elites' anti-religion obsession
08/14/03: Dems whine, democracy shines
08/12/03: What would Reagan do?
08/06/03: Hillary, courtside
07/30/03: Gray skies just got darker
07/23/03: Sticking it to the Children
07/08/03: He's not invincible
07/01/03: It's time to take back the Constitution
04/01/03: Peter Arnett's MOAB
03/25/03: The Dems' Michael Moore Problem
03/18/03: Dixie Chicken out
03/11/03: The real predator drones
03/04/03: The French PR machine crashes
02/25/03: Keep us safe --- let's be more like Europe!
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01/22/03: Playing (and losing) Homeland Security politics
01/14/03: What have you done for the free world lately?
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12/10/02: Who, more than anyone else, is actively advancing the cause of civil liberties around the world?
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11/27/02: The Federal P.C. Police Versus Small Business Owners (Cont'd)
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07/30/02: Dems love for big lawyers=big opportunity
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06/07/02: The Bush administration's foul ball
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04/27/02: The good news about conservatives versus Bush
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04/09/02: Preview of 2004: See how Dick runs!
01/29/02: A kinder, gentler human-rights violator?
11/27/01: Military tribunals provide streamlined justice
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07/20/01: The other, maybe more important, news
06/22/01: Washington's pro-Bono worship is unnerving
06/01/01: Burying conservatism
05/17/01: Ashcroft's abuse of power
© 2002, Laura Ingraham