Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Republicans need to be the party of reform

Conservatism and the Spirit of Reform
Republicans squandered their hard-won reputation as the party of ideas. It's time to reclaim it.
[...] Conservatives tend to be suspicious of reform and distrustful of the impulse to improve, seeing in both perennial threats to freedom. This is exacerbated by the common tendency, on the right and the left, to equate reform and improvement with the progressive aspiration to remake society. Conservatives warn—with a good deal of dismal political history on their side—that owing to ineradicable human arrogance, ignorance and error, big plans to centrally regulate human affairs are bound to go awry.

But that's no excuse to conflate reform, which is often necessary to advance the cause of political liberty, with the progressive interpretation of it. Indeed, conservative reform will very often involve devising policies to limit government in the face of relentless progressive pressure to expand its reach and responsibilities.

Conservative reform is particularly necessary today. Revolutions in telecommunications and transportation continue to transform business, the family and the environment. The threat of transnational terrorists employing biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear and cyber weapons demands greater resourcefulness and agility at all levels of government, as well as greater cooperation among federal, state and municipal officials. And the vast expansion of the federal government undertaken by President Barack Obama and the Democrats has focused the electorate on government's cost and role in a way not seen since Ronald Reagan ran for president.


Like Burke, contemporary conservatives should take their bearings from the principle of freedom and the conditions that sustain it. The question to ask in every case is whether current arrangements or proposals for alternative ones are more likely to promote individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity. The answers should recognize that a federal system favorable to local self-government, respectful of religion and supportive of the family is a time-tested way of cultivating individuals capable of conserving free institutions and taking advantage of the opportunities freedom affords.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today's conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children's education. [...]

Freedom is the answer. Government has it's place, when it's put IN it's place: supporting OUR freedom. Reform begins at home, within our own party. The article points out where Republicans went wrong as well. We have to reform our own house first, to regain the confidence of the electorate, not just Republicans, but the majority of the electorate. Only then will we be in a position to advance greater reform, to bring back our Constitutional government, in support of our freedom and liberty.

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