It seemed to me then, and even now, that certain Republicans never embraced Reagan, though. He was too simple, too bland, dare I say, too conservative and in love with America. Reagan was really a midwesterner who migrated to California. And he took his values with him.
I wrote it off as different styles, and perhaps minimized what I saw. But looking back, I think a lot of the blue bloods never understood or appreciated Reagan's appeal, and I think they resented it.
Pres. Reagan singlehandedly put the Republican Party back on the map after the Nixon debacle. And he made conservatism mainstream. He defied critics by proving that conservatism works and that America was indeed a "Shining City on a Hill."
Still, the Republican establishment in large part never accepted him. They longed for some one more, shall we say, comfortable talking international finance with a bunch of bankers. They got that in George H.W. Bush, and then we got a failed one-term presidency. Read my lips.
And then we got Ross Perot (who was a lip reader, remember?) and also two terms of Bill Clinton. And let us remember the glorious candidacy of Bob "Watch out Chino!!" Dole.
Then came Pres. George W. Bush, who defined himself as a "compassionate conservative." I understand the motive, and I will always like and respect Pres. Bush. But we who are conservatives know that "conservative" needs no modifier. If you modify the term, well, you are something other than conservative.
We each have seminal moments that cause us to alter course. For me, 9/11 cemented the primacy of the role of U.S. security in national politics. For that reason, I think the presidency of Pres. Bush was judged too harshly by many. Yes, it's true that he failed to emphasize economic conservatism -- of course, he did exactly what he told us he would do in that regard -- but he kept his eye on the ball. And the ball during the first decade of the 20th century was first and foremost national security. We now have the Obama Administration experience with multiple attacks and emboldened enemies in only two years for comparison.
Though he did some good things (i.e., tax cuts, S.C. nominees, reducing regulation), Pres. Bush missed huge opportunities to use the bully pulpit and advance the conservative ideals that a lot of the Republican base -- conservatives -- believes in. With the Republicans failing to fight for conservatism, Democrats gained control of the entire government in '08, and now we have seen the disasterous consequences.
Recently, the unfolding candidacy of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware brought me to another crossroads experience. The arguments made against O'Donnell -- that Mike Castle deserved the Republican nomination because he was electable and she was some sort of dolt -- combined with the treatment of her after she got the nomination by the Republican establishment did it for me.
The Establishment also argued about how crucial it was to have a majority in the Senate, as well (even though it takes 60 to really exercise control), and they said that a vote for O'Donnell would fatally and definitively undermine that effort.
But what good is a majority if you fail to use it? What good is a party if its members are better friends with the Demo base than ours? And who says conservatives are unelectable? "Moderates," that's who. I am coming to think this charade of "electability" has been a lot like the Emperor's New Clothes.
On top of that, we have seen the behavior of Lisa Murkowsky in Alaska ... sticking her finger in the eye of Alaska Republicans ... and Charlie Crist, becoming another third-party GOP foe in the Florida Senate race, after the conservative candidate won the primary.
Though they typically demand us to get in line and support their uninspiring candidacies in the name of "unity," this is what the moderate types do. They treat the Marco Rubios of the world as "extremists;" if Crist calls Rubio -- a mainstream conservative --"extreme" one more time, my head will explode. Indeed, if we need people such as Crist, Castle, and 'Kowsky for a majority, what use is such a majority? Put another way, with friends like these, who needs enemies?
Going forward, they can change and get under the tent we are making. It will be plenty big enough.
So, here's the deal. I am still a Republican, but I am with Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin. We are conservatives first, as we have always been. We believe this new stampede of Republicans is being elected for a purpose other than simply to hold the office and "mind the store."
The "store," if you will, is going out of business. The time for "minding" it is over. It's time to fix and defend it.
That's what we conservatives in this coming wave will expect of our elected representatives.
Ignore us and we will see you in the primary.
And in the general election, we will fight you on the beaches, in the Northeast, in the Pacific Northwest, in the mountains, in the Rust Belt ... lo, even in the inner cities. Because we rubes have shown that the whole nation responds to authenticity, to consistency ... to conservative ideas.
One day until it starts.