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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Conservatives: Act now

    Michael HustonColumnist
    Michael Huston

    Despite the fact that the Republican Party currently controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that Republican presidents have nominated all but two of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices since 1966, it’s not easy to be a Republican nowadays.

    The party, its leaders and its supporters face a constant onslaught of insults, attacks and spiteful opposition from the media, liberal interest groups and Democratic leaders.

    It’s not that Republicans either deserve or want sympathy, but the question is worth posing: At a time when Republicans dominate the government, why can’t they prevent their own image from being broken down daily?

    Part of the problem is the significant ideological divide that the party now faces. As the Democratic Party splintered over the years, Republicans generally did a better job of remaining cohesive.

    But the new century has presented the GOP with new challenges, and the party is currently engaged in a dramatic struggle on issues such as immigration reform, government spending and issues of social “”morality.””

    The more conservative wing of the party – especially conservative Christians, who have long been the loudest and the most eager to spend money – has mobilized its supporters for what is sometimes called the “”war for America’s soul.””

    As support for their “”traditional values”” continues to weaken publicly, Conservatives have realized that the time to act is now, because it might be a long time before such a large number of their supporters are in power again.

    On the opposite side of the party are more moderate Republican leaders like Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    These veteran politicians, especially McCain, are adored by moderate Republicans and respected by Democrats and centrists. But conservative Republicans belittle them as having “”betrayed”” the values of the party.

    The problem, however, is that it’s not clear to all Republicans what those

    In the words of the man who shaped the modern Republican Party, “”Ours is the party of hope, courage and strength.””

    values are. In order to be successful in the future, Republicans have to get back to the fundamentals their party was built on, even though hard-line Conservatives won’t be pleased.

    In the words of the man who shaped the modern Republican Party, “”Ours is the party of hope, courage and strength.””

    President Reagan issued those words as a challenge in 1984, but the party has not always lived up to his calling.

    Now, more than 20 years later and at the height of their political power, Republicans have an image problem and they need to work on it.

    To begin with, it’s time for the party that ended slavery to earn back its reputation as the party of civil liberties.

    I was astonished recently to hear a misguided student wonder why Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to sustain government infringement of a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights in a particular case, assuming that as a Conservative, he favored the restriction of civil liberties.

    Does this student not know, I wondered, that Conservatism has personal freedom from government intrusion as one of its core values?

    Spending is another area where Republicans are debatably off course. As much as current conservatives idolize Reagan, it’s not likely that he would be happy to know how much debt the GOP-dominated administration and Congress are currently running up.

    Republicans, from conservative Christians to libertarians, have got to get back to the fundamental values that define them, and they must do it in a way that will unify the rapidly splintering party.

    Unfortunately for the Conservatives, the answer lies in the leadership of Republicans like McCain.

    McCain is so immensely popular across the political spectrum that, pending his decision to run, Republicans can almost guarantee themselves the White House through 2012. That is, if they are smart enough to give him the nomination.

    McCain represents the appropriate balance on the issues where Republicans are most divided, and he commands enough respect across the aisle to accomplish real goals for the party.

    Once the GOP reminds itself just what it really is, the debate about social issues and conservatism can occur honestly and the American people can decide.

    But if stubborn Conservatives refuse to allow progressives like McCain to lead them into the future, the party will break and we’ll all end up worse off with Hillary Clinton as president.

    Michael Huston is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at

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