by Whitney Pitcher
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has written a piece for the National Review in which he offers his thoughts for the Republican party. However, his post is long on rhetoric and short on principled conservatism. In his piece, he poses the idea of the GOP being the “Grand Solutions Party”. Sure that sounds reasonable enough, right? Not really. Fashioning the GOP has the party of solutions inherently means that government must be the entity at work to solve America’s problems. In reality, government is too often the inhibiting factor. It’s the American people who solve our problems when government gets out of our way–de-regulates and spends and taxes less. While Governor Bush does touch on the idea of individual freedom, he only does so by prefacing the concept on a squishy idea of governance in which he notes:
The animating force of this governance is diversity and creativity of thinking. And that is how the Republican party should always be. We are broad thinkers and confident believers in America. We are serious about finding solutions for the problems we face in our communities. And we will not limit the ideas we consider in helping America reach for greatness.
If I hadn’t read the byline and the word “Republican” wasn’t in there, this could easily pass as something off of President Obama’s teleprompter. Yes, government indeed has a role to play–providing an environment for Americans to solve our own problems. As Reagan, whom Bush has very little respect for, notes, “government is not the solution; government in the problem”. Yes, we want government officials to be believers in America, but we don’t want them to believe that they are our saviors.
The two paragraphs following the aforementioned paragraph do indeed touch appropriately on the idea of individual liberty and limited government. Bush goes on to note that principles shouldn’t be abandoned and that we should be “guided meaningfully by the first principles of our nation”. This is, of course, true, but the remaining paragraphs negate his claims of the importance of principle by suggesting that we should abandon it:
But to make sure that we do not lose the advantage of that clear difference, we must not layer onto our fundamental beliefs thick black lines of ideology — black lines that we do not allow ourselves to cross. Those black lines can be comforting, I understand. They provide certainty and stability and ideological purity. But they also restrict the way we think about problems, and make more difficult the kind of reform-minded free thinking that has defined the conservative movement for the last 50 years.
Thick black lines of ideology are good at keeping people in, but they are also good at keeping people out. And our party can’t win if we keep people out. Our goal is not to assemble a small army of purists. We need a nation of converts. We have seen the other way of governing. It has had its day. It has made its best case. It has failed.
Ideology is too often seen as a dirty word when in reality, it simply means standing upon the principles of one’s belief system. Of course, Bush is wrong when he discusses the supposed “reform-minded free thinking” of the conservative movement. Perhaps this “pale pastels” he is referring to are the ideas of the Republican “movement” over the past 50 years– Nixon who thought that the EPA was a good idea or perhaps his father who raised taxes after promising not to. He certainly isn’t referring to the Reagans or Palins of the last fifty years.
Bush says we need a nation of converts, but his idea seems to be that conservatives convert to a unprincipled ideology of pale pastels rather than conservatives promote the ideas of individual liberty and our founding principles to those around us. There is nothing more “Big Tent” than the idea of freedom and limited government which provide the solid foundation. Essentially, he wants us to pitch the proverbial “Big Tent” on a swamp. What happens when you drive the stakes of a tent into a swamp? The tent collapses because the stakes weren’t driven into a solid foundation. A “big tent” is a great goal, but it must be driven into solid ground–perhaps into soil as dark as the “black lines of ideology” that Bush bemoans.
For a take on this piece far more eloquent than my ramblings, please listen to this segment of Mark Levin’s show from today: