After Watergate and the pardon of Nixon, the GOP was, as you’d expect, hit with crushing losses during the 1974 elections. We lost 48 seats in the House and five seats in the Senate.
Back then, like today, Republicans were struggling to decide which way to go. Well, Ronald Reagan answered that question at CPAC with a speech that’s every bit as relevant today as it was back then. If you want to know what the GOP should be doing today, look at these timeless excerpts from Reagan’s speech and you’ll know exactly what the Party should be doing:
“Since our last meeting we have been through a disastrous election. It is easy for us to be discouraged, as pundits hail that election as a repudiation of our philosophy and even as a mandate of some kind or other. But the significance of the election was not registered by those who voted, but by those who stayed home. If there was anything like a mandate it will be found among almost two-thirds of the citizens who refused to participate.
Bitter as it is to accept the results of the November election, we should have reason for some optimism. For many years now we have preached “the gospel,” in opposition to the philosophy of so-called liberalism which was, in truth, a call to collectivism.
Now, it is possible we have been persuasive to a greater degree than we had ever realized. Few, if any, Democratic party candidates in the last election ran as liberals. Listening to them I had the eerie feeling we were hearing reruns of Goldwater speeches. I even thought I heard a few of my own.
Bureaucracy was assailed and fiscal responsibility hailed. Even George McGovern donned sackcloth and ashes and did penance for the good people of South Dakota.
But let’s not be so naive as to think we are witnessing a mass conversion to the principles of conservatism. Once sworn into office, the victors reverted to type. In their view, apparently, the ends justified the means.
…Can we live with ourselves if we, as a nation, betray our friends and ignore our pledged word? And, if we do, who would ever trust us again? To consider committing such an act so contrary to our deepest ideals is symptomatic of the erosion of standards and values. And this adds to our discontent.
We did not seek world leadership; it was thrust upon us. It has been our destiny almost from the first moment this land was settled. If we fail to keep our rendezvous with destiny or, as John Winthrop said in 1630, “Deal falsely with our God,” we shall be made “a story and byword throughout the world.”
Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness.
I don ‘t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, “We must broaden the base of our party”–when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.
It was a feeling that there was not a sufficient difference now between the parties that kept a majority of the voters away from the polls. When have we ever advocated a closed-door policy? Who has ever been barred from participating?
Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?
Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt.
Let us also include a permanent limit on the percentage of the people’s earnings government can take without their consent.
Let our banner proclaim a genuine tax reform that will begin by simplifying the income tax so that workers can compute their obligation without having to employ legal help.
And let it provide indexing–adjusting the brackets to the cost of living–so that an increase in salary merely to keep pace with inflation does not move the taxpayer into a surtax bracket. Failure to provide this means an increase in government’s share and would make the worker worse off than he was before he got the raise.
Let our banner proclaim our belief in a free market as the greatest provider for the people.
Let us also call for an end to the nit-picking, the harassment and over-regulation of business and industry which restricts expansion and our ability to compete in world markets.
Let us explore ways to ward off socialism, not by increasing government’s coercive power, but by increasing participation by the people in the ownership of our industrial machine.
Our banner must recognize the responsibility of government to protect the law-abiding, holding those who commit misdeeds personally accountable.
And we must make it plain to international adventurers that our love of peace stops short of “peace at any price.”
We will maintain whatever level of strength is necessary to preserve our free way of life.
A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.
I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.”