I have been watching with growing dismay how Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the other leaders of today’s Republican Congress have abandoned the principles and virtues of the Reagan Revolution.
I am one of those who idolizes Ronald Reagan’s legacy and that of other past Republicans such as Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Immediately after the ’94 election, when the Republicans took over Congress after decades of Democratic control, they did well in upholding and advancing that legacy. Since President Clinton’s re-election, however, they have become close to what I oppose — big government and arrogance of power by elites. Thus, they are behaving like the anti-Reagan Democrats (or like the Taft and Rockefeller Republicans of past decades).
This week has been a shocking display of perversion of prerogative as Gingrich toured Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan in a so-called “goodwill tour.” This is disgusting. Foreign policy is first the prerogative of the presidency and then the concern of the select members of Congress assigned to oversee America’s international interests. Primary among these being the principled and always consistent Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
When Reagan sought to recover America’s standing after years of decline from Vietnam, to Carter’s nightmare tenure, Speaker Tip O’Neill did everything he could to thwart his policies. In O’Neill’s favor, the Watergate scandal that ended Nixon’s presidency threw the shifting pendulum of power greatly into Congress’ lap. As such, O’Neill and his fellow Democrats were easily able to steal policy and direction from the presidency quite frequently.
The only similar reference to this pendulum swing was when President Andrew Johnson faced attempted impeachment by the radical Republicans in 1867. Lincoln succeeded in greatly expanding presidential authority during the Civil War so as to effect the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the rebellion. Offended by this “taking of power,” Congress fought back, and with the 1867 affair, the presidency was so completely weakened in favor of congressional power that it wasn’t until 35 years later that the constitutional balance of power was appropriately returned to the president. This occurred under the brilliant Teddy Roosevelt.
Ironically, like expansion under Lincoln, decades of expanding presidential authority — from the Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson presidencies — preceded the collapse of presidential authority after Nixon’s abuses during the Watergate affair. From that point until the 1994 Republican Contract With America, Congress reigned supreme over the nation’s affairs, and the results were not too pleasing.
I remember when Speaker Jim Wright traveled to Central America to overturn Reagan’s foreign policy initiatives and appease a communist dictatorship in Nicaragua; I remember when Reagan’s budgets arrived “dead on arrival” in the Democrat-controlled Congress. I remember when Bush thought he could achieve something good for the nation by giving in to Democratic control in the hyper-powered Congress by going back on his “no new taxes” pledge — though, I had forgotten these things until now.
Today, I see Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott groveling like a pathetic pansy for every concession and compromise for “consensus” imaginable with whomever takes the most photos in Time magazine (just what do Republicans stand for under Lott?). Now I see Gingrich passing the collection hat to a corrupt Chinese regime that has proven its worth in American elections by funneling money to its favorite candidates. Now, what do you think the impact would be on Chinese leaders after they successfully financed their choices in our elections, and now the chief congressional leader is running, kissing and hugging in their direction? Now, I see nothing in the way of a plan, a set of principles, or a goal and vision for America’s future under the Republicans. Rather, it is all about power and elitism — something I thought I could have forgotten safely.
Unfortunately, this patsy-pandering for favoritism and power in high-minded arrogance isn’t just a thing of Washington, D.C. I also remember working for Reagan’s ideals and for the Republicans when they were good. Now, however, I see the college Republicans here doing things that are out-of-touch with student passions by holding tiny meetings and concentrating all their energies in student government (like that accomplishes anything meaningful); now I see the Republican Party of Minnesota and elsewhere becoming true “country club Republicans” as they only seem interested in maintaining status quo government programs and interests; now I see “limousine liberals” actually saying they can accept Republican policies!
This is the clearest indication that something is very wrong.
I don’t have any hope for the Democrats; as a national party, they are too tied to the massive federal programs that their great leaders — some who I do also admire, such as FDR and Woodrow Wilson — created.
They can’t escape the vested interests that handcuff their idealism into a reality farce. Also, I don’t have any hope for third parties such as the Reform Party, because they are negative creations designed to oppose and destroy. Beside that, they are also led in most cases by somewhat insane maniacs like Ross Perot.
Rather, I call on all Americans who reject elitism and arrogance of power and who love this country — its lands, its people and everything for which it stands, and who believe in a bright and hopeful future for the 21st century. I call on these people to converge and attack the Republican Party leadership with vengeance of principle and virtue. We must bring the Republicans back to what it’s past great leaders represented: people like Lincoln who sought freedom and constitutional integrity. People like Teddy Roosevelt who sought strength in our armed forces and conservation of the environment. People like Reagan who championed personal liberty and American leadership, as well as non-modern republican people like: George Washington who championed virtue in leadership; Thomas Jefferson who upheld individualism; and Andrew Jackson who sought integrity in democracy.
Republican party members should not shy away from attacking their own leaders, especially as Gingrich and republicans in control everywhere stray towards elitism.
Joe Roche is a senior in history.