Tony Perkins

Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Ken Blackwell.

Louisiana's "Ragin' Cajun,"James Carville, was the mastermind behind the first Clinton presidential campaign. He drew the Republicans off their winning strategy back in 1992 with his “It’s the economy, stupid!”

As a result of following the Clinton campaign, President George H. W. Bush’s campaign neglected social and defense issues and he was defeated by Bill Clinton that year, gaining only 37% of the popular vote.

This year, there is already a call from some to focus like a laser on the economy. And ditch social and defense issues. It was a mistake in 1992, it was a mistake in 2008, in 2012 and it would be a mistake now.

The forthcoming contest for House Majority Leader can be a bellwether for the fall campaign. Will House Republicans let Carville’s mantra lead them into another electoral dead end?

The recent electoral upsets in Mississippi and Virginia should communicate to the GOP that business as usual is no longer selling.

As two conservatives, who have held elected office in Louisiana and Ohio, and now advocate across America for conservative ideas, we are convinced that the path to political and policy success in the GOP is once again embracing the full spectrum of conservative principles.

We won’t presume to tell our elected representatives who to vote for in the upcoming leadership elections. But we can offer friendly advice on what leadership traits they should be looking for.

The conservative movement has been strongest when it stands on three sturdy legs of a stool—economic, defense, and social conservatism. The successful leadership of Ronald Reagan showed how these elements reinforced one another. He knew that unless the stricken economy left to us by Jimmy Carter was revived, we could not rebuild our hollowed-out military and we could not restore America’s social foundation.

While Reagan gave proper emphasis to his economic recovery program, he worked diligently to reassert America’s military strength and to defend the family. Reagan knew the family had been overtaxed, threatened by radical social programs, and in great need of moral support from government at all levels.

Because Reagan never neglected America’s defenses and never failed to advance pro-life and pro-family policies, he won the support of millions of blue-collar Democrats. He framed his economic policies, as well, in terms that made sense to working families. Even as the Carter Recession lengthened during the early Reagan years, he knew that the themes of American patriotism and family values would sustain him through hard times.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is President of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.
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