The Ripon Forum

Volume 41, No. 6

Dec 2007 - Jan 2008 Issue

The Walls Have Fallen, but the Pillars Remain

By on November 16, 2015

by LOU ZICKAR

My wife and I are in the process of renovating our house. It’s a great home, a 1940s colonial that was built right after the war. The kind with a solid structure and a solid foundation and walls made of plaster two inches thick.

It’s a mess right now, with wires hanging from exposed ceilings and piles of brick and other rubble cluttering the floor. What had been the back of the kitchen is no longer there; what had been the master bath is nowhere to be found.

As I was looking at it the other day, the whole scene kind of reminded me of the Republican Party. The GOP is a party in ruins. Its poll numbers are down. Its image is in the dumpster. The candidates vying to be the party’s next nominee for President are trying to be the next Ronald Reagan but are failing to catch on.

The mood is indeed grim inside the Republican Party. It’s grim because the party is living in the house that Reagan built, but it’s trashed the place and the walls have fallen down. And now the house needs to be rebuilt. It needs to be restored. It needs to be renovated.

As any homeowner will tell you, successful renovations generally begin with hard truths. Some truths are good; others are bad. Before we began our renovation, my wife and I faced some hard truths about money and space. We also faced two other truths that are relevant to Republicans as they work to restore the party.

Truth #1: We had to find a new architect – since our home was built nearly 60 years ago, it was safe to assume the man who designed it was no longer around. This was not unexpected, but it was still unfortunate – as stated, the man built a great house. We didn’t let nostalgia over what he could have done get in the way of what needed to be done, however. We simply went out and found someone who could get the job done now.

As much as Republicans may hope, and as much as their candidates for President may try, Ronald Reagan cannot be replaced. His vision helped lead America out of a period of weakness and disillusionment and into an era of prosperity and strength. He was the right man at the right time. But he is gone, and this is a different time.

Republicans need to be looking for a new architect, a leader who will help them meet the challenges our nation faces ahead, not the road we have left behind.

Truth #2: For all its faults, our house was structurally sound — oftentimes during home renovations, you hear horror stories of termite-infested wood or cracked basement walls or problems that threaten the integrity of the entire house. With our home, that has never been a problem. As stated, the walls are thick. The foundation is solid.

The foundation of the Republican Party is solid, too. Yes, the party is facing pressures related to Iraq and Iran. And yes, the party had its head in the sand when it came to Katrina and spending and ethics. But on the key issues that continue to define the Republican Party – limited government, lower taxes, and a stronger national defense – poll after poll shows that America is a center-right nation, and that the American people are on the party’s side.

These issues are the pillars of the GOP, and the pillars around which the party can be rebuilt. Not with old strategies that take 1980’s-era solutions and try to impose them on the problems of today. And not with DeLay-era tactics that try to demonize the Democrats and anyone else with whom the party may disagree. But rather by doing what any good architect will do – updating the pillars so they are relevant and have a positive impact on people’s lives.

It’s what Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and other Republicans in the House are trying to do with their “Taxpayer Choice Act,” a bill that, among other things, would give Americans fed up with the current tax code the option of continuing to pay taxes under the current system or opting into a new “Simplified Tax” system with just two standard rates.

It’s what New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg and other Republicans in the Senate are trying to do with their “S-O-S Act,” which would get the federal budget under control by putting caps on both discretionary and entitlement spending and reforming the budget process so the government has a fiscal blueprint it can follow instead of a pointless document that is too often ignored.

And it’s what Maine Senator Susan Collins is doing by working across party lines with Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to pass the “Bombing Prevention Act,” which attempts to get ahead of the IED curve by making sure the kind of Improvised Explosive Devices that are being used against our troops in Iraq are not used by terrorists against Americans here at home.

Efforts like these are critical to rebuilding the GOP. As with any renovation project, it won’t happen overnight. There’s still work to be done. The key thing is to keep moving in a forward and positive direction, with an eye on the pillars that keep the party standing, and a vision for the walls that have yet to be built. RF

Lou Zickar is the Editor of The Ripon Forum

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