Craig Shirley

Scientists discovered recently that elephants can indeed see their reflection in a mirror but it was not reported whether or not they could also peer into their political souls. One thing is for sure however; the funding for the nonsensical study surely came from an earmark offered by some Republican member of Congress.

E. J. Dionne of The Washington Post was right when he wrote recently that the GOP no longer has a governing philosophy. As GOP officials so skillfully superimposed Bushism and Republicanism onto conservatism, some began to believe they were all one in the same. And some conservatives somehow thought because their friends were in power, they actually deserved it. Further, they began to enjoy the trinkets and baubles offered to its chieftains by the cynical forces of the Republican Party, just as the US Army used to buy off the plains Indians who gave up whole territories for a few beads of glass.

Republicanism is NOT conservatism. There is no such thing as “big government conservatism.” This was a cynical attempt to use conservatism’s good name to pawn off un-conservative actions to the American people. The GOP is once again a Tory like-party, where power flows downward, much as it was during Richard Nixon’s time. Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan turned the GOP into a populist conservative party where power flows upwards from the citizenry. These gentlemen would have never labeled the grassroots Minutemen, trying to prevent illegal aliens from crossing the borders, as “vigilantes” which the Bush Administration did.

As the Republican Party bought off some on the right, it was pushing new, dangerous policies as conservativism but were in fact antithetical to the minimalist government principles which first brought together the economic right and the social right, the fusionism so brilliantly trumpeted by legendary conservative thinker Frank Meyer. They played with fire, and in so doing, have done damage to the conservative movement Goldwater and Reagan created and nourished and led for so many years.

Yet before the movement goes forward to repair itself, it is important to restate what it is and what it is not, and what Reagan was, and what Reagan was not. First, Reagan was kind and gentle, but he was not a “kinder and gentler” Republican. Reagan was compassionate, but he was not a “compassionate conservative.” Reagan was interested in new ideas, but he was not a “neo con.” Reagan conservatives are not “paleo cons” as if they were some sort of genetic throwback.

Craig Shirley

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer, a presidential historian and Chairman of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. His firm is assisting Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.