Howard Rich's Blog

August 11, 2008

The Eleventh Commandment’s Eleventh Hour

Filed under: Uncategorized — howierich @ 2:49 pm

There are many ironies associated with “Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment,” but perhaps the greatest irony of all is that this outdated Republican Party maxim didn’t originate with the Gipper.

Those famous words “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” were actually conceived by former California GOP Chairman Gaylord Parkinson, largely to spare Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign from the same liberal Republican attacks that sank the 1964 presidential bid of Barry Goldwater.

Yet nearly a half century later, with an increasing number of Republicans wandering further than ever off of the “Reagan reservation,” the Eleventh Commandment has not only outlived its usefulness, its script has been flipped on the conservatives principles which Reagan used to build the modern GOP.

Originally intended to protect ideologically pure Republican candidates like Reagan from a barrage of left-leaning, Rockefeller-style attacks within the GOP, the Eleventh Commandment in recent years has morphed into bulletproof shield for big-spending Republican politicians whose fiscal policies would make the former President roll over in his grave.

In fact, the national GOP’s blind allegiance to party label – not party ideology – is directly responsible for the fiscal abuses which led to the current Democratic majority.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey of the conservative Club for Growth summed up the predicament neatly in a recent column in The Wall Street Journal:

“A Republican majority is only as useful as the policies that majority produces,” Toomey wrote. “When those policies look a lot like Democratic ones, the base rightly questions why it should keep Republicans in power. As the party gears up for elections in the fall, it ought to look closely at the losses suffered under a political strategy devoid of principle. Otherwise it can look forward to a bad case of déjà vu.”

Indeed, the Republican disaster of 2006 – in which exit polling suggested that 40% of voters in swing states viewed the GOP as the “party of big government” – seems destined to be repeated in 2008, with recent polling suggesting that support for Republican candidates is at a sixteen-year low.

Rather than stand firm on their party’s founding principles, Republicans fell victim to the same pork barrel, special interest excesses that defined previous Democratic majorities.

In fact, from 2001-2007, Republicans added $3 trillion to the national debt – a 60% increase that drew howls from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, among others.

“The Republicans in Congress lost their way,” Greenspan wrote in his 2007 memoir, The Age of Turbulence. “They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.”

Sadly, that lesson remains completely lost on the national GOP leadership, which continues to defend dozens of “Republicans in Name Only” whose fiscal recklessness is what cost the party its Congressional majority in the first place.

Even as the National Republican Congressional Committee was busy losing three more “safe” House seats in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi in special elections this year, the light bulb still hasn’t gone off.

Rather than rallying Republicans around common sense, Reagan-esque values (at a time when our national economic outlook clearly dictates such an approach), GOP leaders like Rep. Tom Cole are instead fumbling around in the dark for their core principles and trashing fiscally conservative groups like the Club for Growth as “stupid.”

Frankly, based on the wholesale implosion of Republican ideology and the ongoing electoral disaster it has created, I would refer Mr. Cole not only to the wisdom of Reagan, but also that of Forrest Gump:

“Stupid is as stupid does, sir.”

Restoring America’s economic potential means recommitting ourselves to a core set of limited government principles, not some outdated “commandment” whose only purpose is protecting those politicians who have sold its underlying principles down the river.

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