We must all work together for conservative reform
I thought you may want to read this piece I wrote that ran in The State:
In May of 2009, I began my service as chairman of the S.C. Republican Party. There was no honeymoon.
Within a few weeks it became obvious that the Grand Old Party in the Palmetto State was facing internal divisions, controversy and monumental challenges. Our friends in the Democratic Party were poised to exploit what they thought was an advantage for them and to defeat our candidates in the 2010 election.
Of course, they failed. In addition to keeping the governor’s office and re-electing a U.S. senator, the GOP won five of six seats in Congress, swept statewide offices and expanded its majority in the State House.
Who was responsible for this historic victory? First, our candidates. No electoral success is possible without them. From Jim DeMint to Nikki Haley and dozens of state and local offices, we had a dream team of great candidates. Less visible heroes include Republican Party activists, our executive committee, county officers and volunteers. Through their tireless efforts, our Victory Program set records in absentee voting and created the enthusiasm that made victory possible. I am honored to have worked with so many dedicated leaders.
When I began my term as chairman, I set two goals as absolutely essential: to hold on to the governor’s office, re-elect our incumbents and expand the Republican majority; and to protect our state’s “first in the South” presidential primary at a time when larger states were seeking to move ahead of us. We achieved both goals.
I was greatly tempted to seek another term as chairman, but this is a demanding job that requires constant attention. After much reflection, family and business concerns persuaded me the time has come to pass that duty on to the next chairman. I shall always be grateful to all the Republican leaders who trusted me to serve as their chairman.
As my term winds down, I would like to offer a few observations about the past, present and future of our party. More than 30 years ago, an extraordinary leader named Ronald Reagan launched the modern conservative movement. He pointed America along the path to freedom, in the direction of strong moral values, lower taxes, limited government and unlimited opportunity.
Over the years that followed, sadly, many Republican politicians were seduced by the corrupting influence of power and gradually strayed from Ronald Reagan’s vision. In so doing, they lost the moral authority and the majority President Reagan had given them. Our challenge now is to recapture that vision.
The rise of the tea party movement represents the next great chapter in the conservative movement. The question that remains is this: Will we follow Ronald Reagan’s example of a welcoming, inspirational conservatism that captures the hearts of a majority?
Clearly the tea party movement has become the conscience of the Republican Party, the persistent voice that urges our leaders to remain faithful to the constitutional principles of freedom and limited government.
At the same time, leaders in the tea party movement would do well to remember Ronald Reagan’s advice, when he said any one who is with us 85 percent of the time is our friend. That is why President Reagan was able to reach across party lines and inspire a national majority for the conservative cause.
The tea party movement is a wonderful thing. We must stand up for our values and debate issues with passion. But let us not fall into the trap of making the perfect an enemy of the good.
Nothing is gained when we nominate candidates who simply cannot win in November. Also, efforts to punish or purge those who do not agree with us on every issue serve only to undercut our fight for conservative reform.
Florida’s U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio said it well on election night. He pointed out that the election results represent “a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.”
On Nov. 2, the voters issued a mandate for true conservative reform, for lower taxes, less spending and a return to constitutional government. When we deliver what we promised, it is my prayer that a majority of Americans will once again be proud to call themselves Republicans.