Top Videos
Related Topics
election 2006
2008 Polls NationalIowaNew HampshireGeneral Election
GOP | DemGOP | DemGOP | DemHead-to-Head

Send to a Friend | Print Article

Win One for the Gipper

By Ronald A. Cass

Ronald Reagan, though derided endlessly by Democrats and media elites, won the presidency not just as a consummate showman but as the apostle of three big ideas.

First, he believed that a free enterprise system is not merely more efficient than a government-run command-and-control economy - it also is far more consistent with ideals of human freedom and dignity. Second, personal liberty and personal responsibility go hand-in-hand - and are preferable to government choice and group responsibility. Third, America is a fundamentally good nation - we should be willing to stand up for it and if necessary to fight for it.

Reagan's optimism about America and devotion to freedom fueled his belief that it was necessary to defeat communism - a system that denied human freedom, denied God, suppressed free will, and sought global dominion - and that we could win if we were committed to doing that. Despite the hoots from sophisticates, Reagan proved right on all counts. His vision of "morning in America" resonated with us, and his call "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" inspired victims of abusive, totalitarian governments around the world.


Next week, Americans have the opportunity to reaffirm President Reagan's vision or to take a step back toward the vision of government and of America he fought against.

Democrats today, as in the 1970s, believe that government knows best how to handle a broad array of problems; that it should take more in taxes and spend more at home; that we're better off hoping for the best than taking the fight to our enemies; and that freedom and responsibility are subordinate values to their own vision of what society should be.

Nothing in that should be a surprise. No one who follows politics even a little could imagine that the America of Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, and Nancy Pelosi would look anything like Ronald Reagan's America.
Yet, shockingly, this election hangs in the balance because many conservatives don't think it's worth coming out to vote. Races across the country will turn on who goes to the polls and who stays home. Conservatives should flock to the polls to protect Reagan's legacy.

Instead, Reagan's name and memory are invoked as excuses for apathy. Some conservatives are piqued that President Bush and congressional Republicans have not been true enough to the Reagan vision, accusing them of tacking before the wind on trade and spending and campaign funding, not doing enough to put God back in our schools, succumbing to the corruption of power. Conservatives, echoing the media, moan that the war in Iraq seems endless, unpopular, and un-winnable. Conservatives speak of teaching their leaders a lesson.

This is not the time. This is not the way. Because on every issue conservatives care about, giving power to Democrats will make things worse.


Take two of the biggest issues: terrorism and Iraq. These are related issues, no matter how the media and Democrats struggle to pull them apart. America has been attacked repeatedly by Islamic terrorists intent on destroying our nation, our culture, and our people. They attacked us in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2000. Our tepid responses only emboldened the terrorists.

When they struck in 2001, killing nearly 3,000 innocents, President Bush resolved that we would take the fight to them and to those who harbor and support them. The President and Congress have aggressively pursued terrorists, expanded our capacity to gather and protect intelligence about their operations, and put them on the defensive in dramatic reversal of our prior course.

Five years ago, every pundit assured us that we faced further, imminent attacks on the scale of 9/11's tragedy. Yet none has occurred. Rather than praising our success, Democrats routinely criticize the President and Republicans for paying too much attention to saving American lives and too little to protecting the terrorists' civil rights.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein's brutal regime supported terrorists, paid them for killing Israelis, gassed its own citizens, and attacked its neighbors. Our losses in Iraq are lamentable - each and every one of them - but the deaths of brave American service men and women during 44 months of war, splashed across news headlines daily, represent fewer lives lost than the terrorists took on a single day.

Sadly, Democrats seem to fear the polls more than the terrorists. Their instincts in the war on terror and the war in Iraq mirror their instincts in the war on communism and the Vietnam War - and in each case their willingness to run away from a fight at the first sign of trouble encourages the enemy and undercuts our troops. Conservatives should be anything but apathetic over the prospect of a Democratic Congress in time of war.

The same is true for all of the other key issues. Remember Hillary's health care plan? Conservatives at the time described it as a perfect blend of government controls: the efficiency of the postal service and the compassion of the IRS. Judges and the court system? Democrats in the Senate have been implacable foes of judges committed to the textualist-constitutionalist approaches conservatives applaud. Immigration? Amnesty and bilingualism are the key ingredients.

Whatever conservatives don't like about Republican office-holders, they can expect to like Democrat replacements less. And that's wholly apart from the certainty that Democrats would use control of any part of Congress to investigate, castigate, and frustrate the Executive branch in every way imaginable for the remainder of President Bush's term.


Control of the Senate hinges on a string of close races. Conservatives in Pennsylvania should turn out for Rick Santorum - a Senator who has been a strong supporter of the President's judicial nominees and a solid conservative. Michael Steele, running in Maryland, would be a dependable and thoughtful conservative in a formerly Democrat seat. Senator George Allen of Virginia, though endlessly attacked in the local press for insensitive comments, has been a reliable conservative voice in the Senate. Conservative voters in New Jersey, Tennessee, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Michigan, and Rhode Island can make the difference between Republican Senate victories or defeats.

The House has many more seats, smaller districts, and a plethora of local issues influencing the outcomes, but here, too, conservative turnout can decide many contests. Tom Reynolds in New York, Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in Texas (forced to run as a write-in candidate for Tom DeLay's former seat), Peter Roskam in Illinois, Deborah Pryce in Ohio, and several dozen more candidates are in close races. Their fates will determine whether Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker of the House and whether John Conyers gets his wish to start hearings on impeaching the President.

Next Tuesday, Ronald Reagan's sun can continue to shine on America. But conservatives must be willing to make that happen. They must embrace the mantra that partial sunshine is better than rain any day of the week. It's a good time to remember Reagan's optimism, his pragmatism, and his values. And it would be enormously gratifying to win this one for the Gipper.

Ronald A. Cass served Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush as Commissioner and Vice-Chairman of the US International Trade Commission. He is Chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law and Dean Emeritus of Boston University School of Law.

© 2000-2006 All Rights Reserved

Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links

Ronald A. Cass
Author Archive