A certain pundit suggested that with the triumph of many of their ideas, Republicans have written their own death warrant. Having accomplished all of their major policy goals (defeating Soviet Communism, ongoing prosperity, balancing the budget, etc.) they have no further reason to exist.
My first inclination was to write this off as the facetious ramblings of a columnist whose deadline arrived before his ideas did. On reflection, though, there is a kernel (and no more) of truth here that deserves exploration.
It seems that in times of peace and prosperity we become complacent and apathetic. With the Soviet Communist menace gone and budget deficits on the decline we tend to let our guard down.
But the elimination of certain enemies of freedom, no matter how formidable, does not guarantee a permanently free society. If world history proves nothing else, it shows conclusively that human beings will always try to subjugate other human beings.
Totalitarianism has many faces, many of them shrouded in alluring disguises. Socialized medicine, progressive income taxes and the undermining of the traditional family are but a few examples.
There will always be well-meaning people (and others) who believe that it is the prerogative of the government, not the invisible hand of the free market, to allocate resources and distribute wealth. In their “beneficence” they will pit race against race, gender against gender, producer against non-producer, and producer against consumer.
Despite what liberals may want you to believe, their affinity for big government will never be over — if for no other reason than that their constituencies can only be satisfied through governmental intrusion. One tragic irony of liberalism is that it robs human beings of their dignity by legislating and regulating away their individuality and liberties all in the name of humanity.
This nation still has foreign enemies as well. Those who thought that the disintegration of the USSR would lead to major defense savings (the so-called “peace dividend”) were a bit naive. Just look at the recent reports on the shocking state of our military readiness.
The world is every bit as dangerous today as it was during the height of the Cold War, even if our enemies aren’t united as a monolithic force. Consider Red China, Russia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and terrorism everywhere.
There is no question that Ronald Reagan’s message was ripe for acceptance by the American people with the misery index in the stratosphere and our national morale at an all-time low.
He was able to sell his tax cuts because people knew that confiscatory tax rates were smothering our growth potential. They were also weary of the attitude of defeatism that permeated our society and military.
But where certain analysts err is in their assumption that Reagan’s solutions to our national crisis were narrowly crafted to fit only the particular problems of his era.
It just so happens that Reagan’s prescription for prosperity and the re-establishment of this nation as the most powerful in the world transcended the problems of his time. They were universal solutions because they were rooted in the American ideal: the concept of ordered liberty.
There will always be internal and external threats to our freedoms. There will always be tension in our society between liberty and forced equality.
To be sure, one purpose of tax cuts was to stimulate economic growth. But their overarching purpose was to unshackle human beings from the tentacles of big-government. Economic growth is a byproduct of the unleashing of human potential.
And without question, Reagan rebuilt our military with the idea of demoralizing the Soviets and ultimately defeating them in the Cold War. But he knew that even with the fall of Soviet Communism, only a strong America would remain a free America.
Republican ideas aren’t dead unless the American dream is dead. The names, places and times will change. But as long as there are enemies of freedom (and there always will be) there will be a need for liberty-watchdogs.
Republicans must remember their roots and continue to trumpet the timeless message of freedom, in good times as well as bad. As long as they do, there will always be an indispensable place for them.