On these and many other issues, the Republican Party embraces what the majority of Americans believe, and the Democratic Party opposes those same positions. These policies naturally flow from the basic Republican principles of limited government, economic opportunity and personal responsibility. Such policies represent the three legs of the Reagan Coalition: economic conservatives, social conservatives, and national-security conservatives.
Unfortunately, Republicans have not been true to Republican principles. Federal spending has been at utterly disgraceful levels for years. The past eight years have seen a massive expanse of federal power into areas formerly left to the states or to individuals. The plain truth is that some of the things that President Bush and the Republican majority did gave conservatives a bad name, and so the GOP lost the voters' trust.
These repeated and constant failures sapped the energy out of the GOP base. It led to some voters staying home or not contributing their time and money. Some even jumped ship in protest.
Republicans have failed to communicate new and innovative ideas to persuade new voting blocs that GOP principles are something they should support. Hispanics, working women and Reagan Democrats can all be persuaded to vote for the GOP. Republicans must have solutions that reach these voters where they are. And there are solutions that represent Republican principles that can win their support.
Michelangelo is said to have denied he was a great sculptor. He said the beauty of his work was already in the rock, and all he did was find the masterpiece within it. It is time for emerging Republican leaders to become the Michelangelos who again unleash the beauty and power within the rock of GOP beliefs. Republicans must excite, energize and mobilize their base, while reuniting old coalitions and forming new ones. They must provide bold and innovative leadership to recapture that sense of optimism and opportunity.
In 1994, the party refocused and found its way back. It will do so again.