I was privileged to spend some time with fellow conservatives, Republicans and concerned citizens in Hershey, PA., last Friday, where I addressed the state GOP. Here's what we discussed.
We are not here tonight just because we are Republicans. We are here because we know that we have the strongest, freest and most prosperous country in the history of the world, and that if we adhere to the traditional principles of the Republican Party, which are the first principles of our country, we will keep it that way.
We know that we were given a country based upon certain eternal truths–the wisdom of the scriptures and the wisdom of the ages … the fact that there is such a thing as human nature that has to be taken into account when governing … and most fundamentally, based upon the fact that people are meant to be free. Our founders derived from these principles a government that had its powers separated, checked and balanced because they knew that power tended to corrupt. In keeping with that they incorporated in our Constitution a system of Federalism to make sure that there was not too much power concentrated in the central government, which was given delineated powers and no others.
From these principles we developed a market economy, with the rule of law, a system of trade with other nations, and a strong national defense. From the prosperity, freedom and strength that came from this system we became a friend and example to all those around the world who aspired to those same things. We won wars, including the Cold War, and enhanced world stability and a friendlier environment within which others could pursue their own freedom. This of course enhanced our own security as Americans.
But today many of the principles that made our country great are under assault. Some of our fellow Republicans say that things are different now and we must change with the times. We recognize that appropriate change is necessary, just as the conservative thinker Edmund Burke did when he supported the American Revolution.
However we must ask those who would modify our principles, “When did freedom and liberty become outdated?” Then, “What part of our Constitutional framework needs to be abandoned?”
We need to recognize that in a constantly changing world there are still some unchanging truths. It is when our party has abandoned our principles that we have gotten into trouble. Not when we’ve adhered to them.
The Democratic Party of today would abandon many of these principles and what they would not abandon they would distort. They have their own principles. They believe:
Today’s Democratic Party would persuade the American people that the government is the solution to all of their problems and that every economic downturn is because of a conspiracy against them.
They would change the definition of marriage and appoint liberal judges to set our social policy. In fact, they have thrown our court system into turmoil in order to ensure that President Bush will not be able to appoint any more judges in hopes that next year a new Democratic president can give us a new batch of judges approved by MoveOn.org.
They would bring about the biggest tax increase in American history.
And to lead this effort they apparently have nominated a man who keeps repeating, “Yes we can.” Well, America now knows what he means by that and our response is, “No we won’t!” Our vision is an entirely different one.
There are two things that have been firmly established on the American political scene over the last several years. First these liberal Democratic policies have been rejected by the American people.
I had the opportunity to help make that happen. In the 90’s, we passed welfare reform, balanced the budget and began rebuilding our military. Since 2000 we’ve cut taxes for all Americans who pay taxes and seen unprecedented economic growth. We have put two good justices on the Supreme Court. We passed the Defense of Marriage Act. These things could not have been done if the American people believed in what the Democrats are now trying to sell. I might also add that under President Bush’s leadership we did the things necessary to prevent another attack on this country.
The second thing that is clear is that the American people see the need for strong, experienced leadership in dealing with matters of foreign policy and international threats. Look at the world today.
This is no time for on-the-job training in the White House for someone who thinks that polite conversation with state sponsors of terrorism is the key to our safety. But despite all of this the Democratic Party is nominating for President the most liberal, and one of the most inexperienced members of the United States Senate–a man who has never strayed from the official Democratic position on any issue or reached out across the aisle in any effort to compromise on issues important to our country.
Under his leadership the Democrats would take us down the road to greater reliance upon an expanded, and in many cases inept, government to a larger national debt and weaker national defense. We are not going to let that happen.
John McCain’s entire career, his entire life, has prepared him to lead this country in the troubled times we live in today. His story is one of sacrifice, courage, and placing the interests of his country above his own. There are scores of issues that will be discussed and debated during this campaign. And we won’t always agree among ourselves. We must ask ourselves what are the things most vital to the welfare of our country. I believe, among them must be the issues of national security, the taxation of American citizens, the appointment of judges who will follow the law and the Constitution and not make it up as they go along, government reform and life itself. And on these issues John McCain has and will stand strong. Whether it’s saying no to the continued expansion of entitlement programs we can’t pay for, correcting our mistakes in Iraq to ensure success or pork barrel spending of either party, while others wavered, he stood strong–sometimes almost alone.
It is clear that as the ever-moving political pendulum has swung against Republicans this year, we have probably nominated the only Republican candidate we can get elected. Obviously, I have (not) always been of that opinion. We must take advantage of this fact and stay united as Republicans for the benefit of our country. I know that folks in Pennsylvania appreciate this more than most. Any realistic scenario for victory recognizes the necessity of our carrying the State of Pennsylvania. We must be dedicated to the proposition that America’s greatest days are still ahead of her and that they cannot be achieved by turning the keys to this country over to the most left-wing elements of the Democratic Party.
Not too long ago I was asked by a group of 11 year olds why I was so interested in government and politics. I thought about it for a minute and then I said that, while I was interested in politics from an early age, as I got older I became more interested in what politics were supposed to do, like protect our freedoms. I told them that over the years as I read world history it dawned on me just how unique our country was. How a small group of intellectuals and a much larger group of average people, servants, tradesmen, some folks who had had run-ins with the law but all of whom shared a desire for liberty, came here, carved out a place in the wilderness and decided they could govern themselves. How they came up with a Constitution that was the envy of the world and still is. How they elected a President who could have been a king, but instead served his terms, got on his horse and rode out of town never to return.
How 70 years later at a place called Gettysburg another great President wondered aloud whether a government of free people could endure when the going got rough. He had faith that it could. And it did.
Every generation of Americans since, in order to protect this unique place, has shared this faith and made its share of sacrifices and done the things necessary to make sure that our country did endure strong and free. And now it’s our turn.
Thank you for all that you have done in this effort and I look forward to our working together in this election year to add another illustrious chapter to the history of our party and our nation.
Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.