Craig Shirley

In the early days of the first Reagan Administration, an issue before the Cabinet was a financial crisis at the International Monetary Fund. They had come to Washington, hat in hand, asking for $4 billion dollars to replace that which had been lost due to fraud, incompetence and downright theft. President Reagan quite properly opposed the bailout, until heavily pressured by Treasury Secretary Don Regan and OMB Director David Stockman, he reluctantly gave in.

A conservative in attendance watched and later shook his head sadly, saying Reagan would have been better served if he just governed from inside a White House closet, away from the pressures of those advocating the status quo of K Street and Wall Street. Reagan was of course correct about the IMF bailout. The American tax dollars Don Regan argued for were promptly lost, once again, because of dishonesty and malfeasance.

Fortunately for America and conservatism, Reagan most often followed his own instincts and intellect and most believe we are better off for it.

Now is the time to confront the brutal truth of what is wrong with the Republican Party. Or as Reagan said of Jimmy Carter in 1980, “A man who tells you he enjoys a cold shower in the morning will lie about anything.”

There is no such thing as “Big Government Conservatism.” It was always an attempt to justify the GOP doing un-conservative things. There does exist, however, “Big Government Republicanism.” Big Government Republicanism, hand in hand with Neo-conservatism, has brought us welfare for pharmaceutical companies, McCain-Feingold, the Patriot Act and the notion that we can impose our will on all the nations of the world.

And now, Big Government Republicanism has brought us the most massive bailout in American history, rewarding those who created this mess with a “Country Club Safety Net.” The great longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer once said what starts out as a movement eventually becomes a business and then descends into a racket. The Republican Party at present is little more than a racket.

For many years, the conservative movement and the GOP operated as separate and apart from each other. Only after the collapse of the GOP after the corruption and betrayal of conservatism by Richard Nixon did conservatives take over the GOP and transform it from a Tory-style party in which power moves downward the status quo is always defended into an America-style populist movement in which power flows upward and the status quo is always challenged.

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.