Arthur Schaper: Two Peters To End the Petering Out of Mass GOP
Friday, September 06, 2013
What happened to the Northeast GOP? The fiscally conservative, socially liberal (or rather, libertarian!) branch of the Republican Party took a beating over the past two decades because of the National Party leaders policy and strategy decisions. For too long, Republican presidents since President Ronald Reagan have been abandoning a fiscal conservative message, and their wishy-washy woo has proven doom for the Northeast GOP.
Reagan’s rhetoric of “Government is the problem!” recognized the American people’s frustration with Big Government as Big Mess. He identified with voters, he intuitively understood their problems, and his initiative captured forty-plus states in 1980 and 1984. More than a return to normalcy following the disastrous, malaise-ous Carter years, Reagan revamped optimism and free market advocacy which lowered tax rates, raised tax revenues, and improved the quality of life for business and industry in the United States.
Of course, Reagan was merely playing from the Establishment Republican Playbook, which included Warren G. Harding’s massive cuts in spending and government following World War I, followed by former Massachusetts’ Governor Calvin Coolidge’s cool attitude toward government intervention, and especially Dwight David Eisenhower’s resistance to the rising military-industrial complex.
After Reagan came George Herbert Walker Bush, a bad mix of New England pedigree but trying to talk a Texas twang. At the 1988 Republican Convention, he declared: “Read My Lips. No New Taxes.” After reading their 1040s, voters remembered the old adage about politicians and lips: “How do you know that a politician is lying?” You can read the lips and figure out the rest.
“New Democrat” Bill Clinton surged in the 1992 Dem primaries. He didn’t inhale, but he took a deep breath at the three straight Democratic Presidential losses, since Dems had become soft on crime, soft on money, and all around squishy on every other issue. A conservative on fiscal matters, a centrist on everything else, Clinton coasted over Ross Perot’s Independent uprising against Bush and the national debt getting deeper, then won in 1992 on a fiscally-conservative, “Big Government is over”, tough-on-crime message. In other words, Clinton redefined fiscally conservative, socially liberal as a Democratic brand, tapping into voter frustration with Republican Party standard-bearers whom very few could stand, and fewer could bear. Why did a Texas billionaire buy air time on ABC to explain the ABC’s of fiscal policy? Republicans were not doing their job.
After the Great Shellacking of 1994 (Republicans won massive majorities in Congress for the first time in decades), Clinton returned to his Arkansas conservative Democratic roots. No more health care overhauls, time for cutting spending, taxes, and reforming welfare. Clinton even endorsed a federal line-item veto, even though the Supreme Court later struck down this provision.
After the Clinton years, stains and all, George W. Bush barely won in 2000, but Republicans also lost US Senate and Congressional seats, most likely in reaction to the impeachment then trial of Bill Clinton. Bush II continued the mushy mixed message of compassionate conservatism (wars in the Middle East, and a public spending feast at home), which muddied the fiscally conservative waters even further.
To the rescue
Today’s Republican Party leaders have lost touch with the message that resonates across the country: cut the taxes, cut the spending, and return power to the states and the people. Republicans who walk and talk this mantra will win, even those Republicans who love trees and don’t care who you marry.
How can the Mass GOP take back this message? The Two Peters (example and effort) can help.
Peter Torkildsen demonstrated that fiscal and social conservatives can represent the Bay State, but also make space for themselves from the national party. In 2012, the Mass GOP rejected the National GOP platform because of the lack of exceptions regarding abortion. Peter Blute became the Mass GOP as a deputy chairman in 2011, identifying two issues: inexperience and disconnectedness for Bay State Republican candidates. Talk-show radio Blute’s appeal and persona can help both. The candidates can win whom people know, who know the people, and have the know-how.
Republicans win when they carry a message which keeps the government out of my pocket and out of my conscience. Under President Obama, Democrats give only one message: “Government should be bigger just because I say so.” New England deserves better, and the Massachusetts GOP can deliver this message in 2014 without a bad standard-bearer (Romney) dragging down the ticket.
Perhaps the two Peters would like to run again and end the petering out of the Mass GOP.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.
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