What Makes the Grand Old Party Grand

Robert Morrison
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Posted: Nov 09, 2011 12:01 AM

Well, why not tax all those millionaires and billionaires to close the budget gap? J.P. O’Rourke said it with more humor: Why not “eat the rich”? We could certainly appeal to the Occupy Wall Street crowd and maybe get ourselves some favorable treatment on MSNBC. Who knows, by yelling “soak the rich” we might even send some shivers up and down Chris Matthews’ leg.

Besides, here’s a Halloween cat we social conservatives can let out of the bag: Most of those plutocrats are Democrats. And even the ones who claim to be Republicans, like GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, want to keep “wedge issues” out of the campaigns. Wedge issues like the right to life and the defense of marriage are really bridge issues that hold out hope of bringing minorities and blue-collar workers to the conservative cause.

The plutocrats’ favorite charity is Planned Barrenhood, which used to bill itself as “the charity that ends the need for charity.” That’s like those kindly “mercy killers” who will end your need for mercy.

So why don’t we join the mob and pack all those billionaires in the tumbrels to the guillotine? Because it is morally wrong. Because it offends our deepest beliefs in freedom, justice and equality of opportunity. It destroys the rule of law. Free markets are essential to free peoples.

We will not covet the plutocrats’ money even when we profoundly disagree with what they do with it. Mrs. Thatcher said it well: “The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.” The Iron Lady was firm on that. And the lady was not for turning.

Wall Street Occupiers, like their friend in the White House, do not know the first thing about economics. That’s literally true. Winston Churchill did know the first thing about economics. He wrote:

The process of the creation of new wealth is beneficial to the whole community. The process of squatting on old wealth, though valuable, is a far less lively agent. The great bulk of the wealth of the world is created and consumed every year. We shall never shake ourselves clean from the debts of the past, and break into a definitely larger period except by the energetic creation of new wealth.

What Churchill did not explain here – that is, why all this new wealth is annually created – has been admirably explained by Wall Streeter David Goldman in First Things:

Our children are our wealth. Too few of them are seated around America's common table, and it is their absence that makes us poor. Not only the absolute count of children, to be sure, but also the shrinking proportion of children raised with the moral material advantages of two-parent families diminishes our prospects. The capital markets have reduced the value of homeowners' equity by $8 trillion and of stocks by $7 trillion. Households with a provider aged 45 to 54 have lost half their net worth between 2004 and 2009…There are ways to ameliorate the financial crisis, but none of them will replace the lives that should have been part of America and now are missed.

Writer David Frum disagrees. He wants the GOP to abandon the right to life.

What if abortion became a ‘non-issue,’ he writes plaintively. He sees a way for the Republican Party to prosper as a party dedicated to sound economics – minus that bothersome, divisive moral squint. He equates pro-lifers with the prohibitionists.

Frum’s is an interesting thesis. There was a famous American political party dedicated to sound economics and avoidance of troublesome moral issues. That party commanded the loyalties of the few and the proud, the wise and the wealthy. They were called Whigs.

But the Whigs split between Cotton Whigs and Conscience Whigs. Frum wants to resurrect the Cotton Whigs.

“Moral principle is all that unites us,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. He knew that sound economics alone could not bring victory to a political party – nor should it.

Princeton’s Robbie George spoke in Washington this week and powerfully parried the Frum thrust.

The Republican Party was born in opposition to “the twin relics of barbarism – slavery and polygamy,” Prof. George said. It was this opposition that led the new party to champion free men and free soil. Lincoln spoke movingly of “the right to rise,” the cornerstone of economic liberty. That’s the reason we don’t penalize success and demonize the job creators.

But even more powerfully did Lincoln oppose the buying and selling of humankind, the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil. “Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon,” he said. That, in essence, is what we pro-lifers believe.

No Republican understood the principles of free markets and free peoples better than Ronald Reagan. And no Republican since Eisenhower enjoyed such a powerful appeal to voters. Is it any wonder that Reagan was also the only President to appeal movingly for the lives of “millions yet unborn?” Reagan called abortion “a wound in the nation’s soul.” He did not do this in a targeted video to be shown only to committed right to lifers huddled in some convention hall.

No institution protects unborn children better than marriage. A mother and a father joined in love and law naturally have the deepest commitment to safeguarding the life yet to be lived. That’s why the vast majority of the unborn who are killed each year are the children of single parents.

The assault on the unborn is paired with the attack on marriage. In a free republic, David Frum may worship the Golden Calf. But if would be better if so intelligent a counselor would remember where we get gold.

For more than thirty years, the Grand Old Party has said it defends the right to life. For the GOP to abandon that commitment now would cast doubt on its commitment to any principle. Let’s keep the Grand in Grand Old Party.

Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.