John Cox is running for president. He is the latest greatest “true conservative” who promises to be the next Ronald Reagan:
” I am a long term, dyed in the wool conservative, brought to the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan; believing that government isn’t the answer to our problems, government is the problem. I am a conservative because I believe that conservative solutions solve problems, just as Reagan believed. You want security? Build the strongest, most powerful military so no one ever would think of challenging you. Want a functioning economy? Enforce the rule of law and create tax and regulatory schemes that allow for the free flow of capital. Want the best health care and education at a reasonable price? Increase supply, reduce demand and ensure fair competition – that is the free market writ large and has from time immemorial proven to be the best way to assure the availability of the utmost in quality at an affordable price. ”
Now I suppose from a conservative point of view that all this makes good sense. After all, who among we Americans, in the abstract, isn’t for the rule of law, a strong national defense, free-flowing lawful capitalism, and good health care. But look to the details of what the Republicans are offering, and a disturbing side emerges to all this. We aren’t seeing conservative, free-market principles being applied in a modern detailed way to modern problems. What we see instead are empty platitudes, or a backwards-looking Reaganism from these candidates, every bit as vapid as the Kerry presidential campaign (more on that later). Consider these statements by Cox:
”Get the Iraqis to start pumping their oil, put their people to work and stabilize that economy so our troops can get home. Get rid of the income tax in favor of the Fair Tax. Enact a line item veto and change the incentives for government spending; use a sharp pencil to get rid of and consolidate agencies and programs that have outlived their usefulness and only exist to support their political sponsors. Break down the barriers of competition in health care so we get more doctors, more nurses, more hospitals, and more insurance companies competing with each other. Do the same in education by empowering parents with vouchers, breaking the government school monopoly and defanging the power of the teachers unions. “
Now, think Contract with America:
Scrap the income tax. Check.
Line item veto. Check.
Eliminate pork. Check.
Fight socialized medicine. Check.
School vouchers. Check.
I feel like I just fell into a time machine. All we need is “Read my lips, no new taxes”, and “privatize social security”. The only comment that doesn’t fit that bill is his lame comment about Iraq. Sure, we’d all love to have a stabilized Iraqi economy with a democratic government waving goodbye to our troops. We all want a cure for cancer and world peace too. Now, how exactly are we going to achieve that? Aye, there’s the rub.
When I watched the 2004 presidential election, as I listened to the Democratic candidates talk, the word that kept running through my head was “stale”. It was the same old same old we had heard for 20 years: affirmative action, the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer, tax everyone their fair share, etc. Now it seems the Democrats got the message, and are the party that has moved forward into modern issues, and it is the Republicans who are locked in a time warp. For conservatives this is going to be an especially frequent problem since by definition they are more inclined to stick with the status quo. Our modern fast-moving technological world is not going to allow that. Everyone, and every organization, has to learn to change with changing times or get left behind.
Barring a miracle in Iraq, the Republican party is teetering on the brink of collapse. The retirements like John Warner's mount. They are caught between the religious right’s attempt to hold them in place circa 1951, and a modern world with problems that demand different kinds of solutions and a more modern outlook. Republicans do not need another Ronald Reagan, as they seem to aspire given his frequent mentions in the debates. They need to look forward, not backward. This is not Ronald Reagan's world.
What they, and we all as Americans need, is a candidate in touch with America’s roots and core principles, as well as a modern perspective on the world. Where is that candidate?