By Rep. Todd Akin
Like a patient with an injury, the Republican Party is surrounded by many advising doctors who prescribe conflicting “cures.” Because, these cures can’t all be right, we should review our history for examples so that we choose the right one.
We have all heard the group of advisers who think the cure is that the Republican Party should become less conservative and more like the Democrats. They fault imperfect candidates who aren’t moderate enough. While no candidate is perfect (including me), this cure doesn’t explain why more moderate Republican Senate candidates lost in 2012 than conservatives.
Through the lens of history, we see that the GOP needs the principled identity conservatives afford, that conservatism is a winning platform, and that conservative principles are what undergird America’s freedom. The Republican Party should boldly stand on its conservative values. This is the true cure.
Conservatives provide the Republican Party a principled identity. History teaches this is critical to a party. Prior to the Civil War, politics in America was similar to what we see today. The Jacksonian Democrats were politically dominant and masters of building coalitions based on special deals and patronage. The Whig Party was weak, had lost its sense of purpose and was divided on the slavery issue. The Republican Party had a principled identity that focused on freedom and opposed slavery. Opposing slavery was not a winning issue politically, but they believed that our Creator intended all people to be free. Without a sense of purpose, the rudderless Whig Party soon ceased to exist. The Republicans, propelled by the rightness of their cause, took the U.S. presidency with Lincoln. People supported the Republicans, and the party has stayed in existence because its identity was founded in principle. Principle proved stronger than pragmatism. Conservatives provide this principled identity to the Republicans.
The conservative position is a winning platform. While some argue that Republicans must become more pragmatic to create a winning platform, history says otherwise. The conservative Republican Presidents Lincoln, Coolidge, Eisenhower and Reagan were all very popular. They had a passion and confidence from standing on principle. In contrast, Nixon, Dole, McCain and now Romney were less comfortable defending conservative positions, and were less successful. A “fire in the bones” is more convincing than dry statistics.
Conservative principles undergird the very freedoms we enjoy as Americans. America is different than other nations, more prosperous and freer. We are different and successful because America’s founders held conservative beliefs. Unfortunately, today, many are ignoring these foundational principles, such as the belief in a Creator, having a limited federal government, the duty of government to protect life and the importance of individual responsibility.
The recognition of a Creator is core to conservative belief. Our founders fought the biggest military power in the world because they believed, as Jefferson said, “our liberties are the gift of God.” In sharp contrast, the Democrats last year tried to kick God out of their convention! President Washington, in his Farewell Address, asserted, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Ignoring Washington, our liberal courts have censored school prayer and the words “Thou shalt not kill” from classrooms. How has the loss of these conservative principles been working for us?
From painful experience, our founders understood the importance of limited government; therefore, they gave us a written constitution and the rule of law. Conservatives agree. In contrast, liberals and Democrats show a deep and abiding faith in their all-powerful government. The Soviet Union provided their citizens with food, health care, housing, education and employment, the same things the liberals are doing here in the U.S. The liberal’s blind faith ignores the lesson of the last century. A government that can give everything can also take everything. Communist governments alone killed more of their citizens than those who died in two World Wars. Big government is more deadly than war itself. America’s success has been tied to the conservative principle of limited government.
The founders, like conservatives today, placed a high value on individual life and liberty. However, they paid a terrible price for ignoring slavery. What will be the cost of ignoring the killing of over 50 million unborn Americans? Democrats support abortion and use the power of the government to force everyone else to be part of paying for it, all in the name of “choice.” Conservatives believe that abortion waters down our moral currency and cheapens life.
Finally, our founders and conservatives today stress individual responsibility. My parents’ generation labored and sacrificed to pass on a brighter future to their children. They believed in private property and hard work, and took a dim view of socialism and dependency. The Obama administration is burning over a trillion dollars a year in deficit spending on a $3.5 trillion budget. Our addiction to handouts will create poverty and dependence and leave our children in economic slavery. We must not trade our inheritance of freedom for the golden chains of dependency to the welfare state.
For these and many other reasons, the Republican Party needs to embrace conservatism. It needs to stop apologizing for the fact it stands on principle and needs to stop eating its own. It should boldly communicate that the prosperity and freedom we enjoy come from conservative principles.
The American system is remarkably durable, but it is not fool-proof. Just because we are free to elect leaders, it does not follow that the leaders we choose will be good ones, as the people in Germany found out in the 1940s! The actions our leaders take have consequences. Conservatives are once again locked in a one- sided battle for freedom. Conservatives not only have a place in the Republican Party, but with God’s blessing, they are the last hope for a free America – they are the true cure for the Party and for America.
Todd Akin served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2013. He lives in his home state of Missouri.