We are all acquainted with the adage "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." For the past decade or so, liberals have been squeaking loudly and getting more than their fair share of the grease, many times, even from Republicans.
It's bad enough that the national media is consistently supportive of the image of conservatives as greedy and uncaring. But it's devastating to the cause of conservatism when Republicans adopt the vocabulary of the left to describe their own initiatives. The consequences of conceding the language spill over into policy as well.
Let's consider a few examples.
Education: Republicans used to boldly denounce federal involvement in education to the point of advocating abolition of the Department of Education. Today, it seems that they are in a contest with Democrats as to who can toss more federal dollars at the problem. House and Senate Republicans have even surrendered to the elimination of the choice component of the president's education bill. How are we going to improve education without competition and accountability, and how are we going to have competition and accountability without school choice?
Patients' Bill of Rights: Republicans are now using this Democratic euphemism for their own HMO bill. For a time, Republicans were talking about market-based reforms for the health-care system. Now they're offering McCain-Kennedy lite, presumably to demonstrate their compassion.
Election Reform: Haven't Republicans allowed themselves to be bullied into rolling over on this issue? When House Administration Chairman Bob Ney promises to hold hearings on the issue in the future, isn't he tacitly admitting the bogus charge that there was a systematic effort by the GOP to disenfranchise minority voters in Florida? Doesn't this lend credence to the Democrats' specious claim that it was Republicans who attempted to steal the 2000 presidential election?
Campaign Finance: Where are the principled Republicans who used to claim that soft money bans were unconstitutional? Well, it seems that all too many of them are jumping on the reform bandwagon, promoting a variation on the Democrats' reform proposal, which includes banning soft money.
Social Security: What's all this devotion to a lock-box, when Republicans ought to be unapologetically touting their plan to partially privatize the program?
Tax Reform: In the '80s, Republicans were committed to supply-side principles that sought to stimulate investment and growth by reducing taxes on production. Now, they have gotten on board the demand-side, by gleefully hyping the consumption-oriented, tax-refund measure.
Private Property: While Republicans used to condemn "federal land grabs," today, certain congressional Republicans are cooling to the problem. CNSNews.com reports that Robert J. Smith, a private property rights expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and another CEI colleague were denied by the Republican Committee Chairman an opportunity to testify before the House Resources Committee against CARA – a bill that would transfer billions of dollars of private land to the federal government.
On a host of other issues too numerous to examine fully here – gun control, energy, the environment, national missile defense, abortion, Social Security Reform, Medical Privacy, etc. – Republicans seem to be unnecessarily on the defensive.
I'm not trying to paint too negative a picture; I'm not even saying that Republicans have abandoned their principles. But I am saying that for whatever reason they have backpedaled way too much on far too many issues, signaling a lack of commitment to issues that used to define them as a party.
While we have made many strides beginning with the Reagan years, we sometimes appear to be running from them, rather than building on them. Given the nonstop media megaphone demonizing conservative ideology and policy, it's understandable that Republicans are forever trying to couch their programs in terms acceptable to the elite. But it's not acceptable.
There is a calculated method to Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt's rhetorical madness in seeking to paint every Republican as a Lexus-owning bigot. It's working. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, in a planned advertisement in the New York Times, is trying to warn us about the political left's "Stalinist tactic of adopting terminology for political purposes and its effect of chilling conservative speech by branding it as 'intolerant.'"
As long as Republicans allow their political opponents to frame the terms of the debate they'll not only lose the debate, but the battle over policy. It's time the GOP quit acting ashamed of its platform and afraid of its shadow and resurrected its dedication to freedom.