This article is excerpted from Rep. Ryan’s address to CPAC on Feb. 26, 2009.
We meet at a time when many people are debating the Republican Party’s future and openly questioning the role conservatives should — or, more to the point, should not — play in its revival.
Vigorous debate is healthy and necessary for our party and our movement — and I certainly plan to participate in it. We can’t chart a winning strategy for the future unless we admit that our last strategy led to defeat.
GOP’s Victory Path Goes Through CPAC
But let me make one thing absolutely clear: The Republican Party’s path out of the wilderness leads through CPAC. It will be led by the conservative movement — or it won’t be led at all.
I don’t believe millions of Americans simply embraced liberalism over the last four years. Voters saw an economy in decline, foreclosures rising, retirement savings falling, growing unemployment, huge deficits, earmarked giveaways and massive government intervention to prop up a mismanaged financial sector. Never mind that these problems are largely the creation of misguided government policies. Voters examined this grim picture and rejected the status quo — punishing the party in power. That party was us, the Republicans. We know what Americans voted against. But what were they asking for?
A strong economy, job creation, stable investments, lower taxes, sound money, balanced budgets, limited government. In other words, Americans were asking for conservative policies.
The most urgent task today is to take bold action to revive our sinking economy and relieve the suffering of Americans who have lost jobs and homes to this recession.
But the liberal majority that controls Congress gave us a $787 billion monstrosity. The $1 trillion budget-buster that first passed the House did not have a single Republican vote. Know why?
Here’s why: $600 million to buy “green” cars for bureaucrats. $200 million to re-sod the National Mall. $650 million for digital TV coupons. $50 million to subsidize more obscene art through the NEA. $400 million to study sexually transmitted diseases. $83 billion in welfare payments masquerading as tax cuts.
This is the type of spending that’s supposed to demonstrate the “new era of responsibility” President Obama promised? My seven-year-old daughter showed more restraint when she put together her Christmas list for Santa.
This phony stimulus hastens the steady march toward an irreversible “tipping point” in our democracy that threatens to radically alter the relationship between America’s citizens and our government.
This “tipping point” has long loomed on our horizon in the form of $56 trillion in promised entitlement spending that we haven’t funded. That $56 trillion IOU will require your kids to pay double the taxes we face — a level of government confiscation that endangers their future prosperity.…
What we have here is an update of Marx’s famous slogan: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Now we have: “From the suckers who followed the rules to those who borrowed beyond their means.”
Follow this path and we’ll transform our entrepreneurial capitalist economy into European-style socialism: Where the majority of people pay little or no taxes but become dependent on government benefits. Where tax cuts are impossible because more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise. Where the spirit of risk-taking is smothered by an all-providing government.
In plain language, citizens who had governed themselves will become mere subjects of the state — more concerned about security than liberty. Once we reach this “tipping point,” the friends of freedom will be reduced to near-silence. Whatever you may call that kind of government, it will not be democracy.
There is a different future open to us — but it will require bold leadership and a Republican Party re-awakened to conservative principles.
The Republican victories that began in 1980 were inspired here at CPAC. But as a conservative, I admit my party took success for granted. The Republican Party disregarded its roots — losing direction, sacrificing principles and failing to offer a vision relevant to most Americans.
Our greatest leaders — in the tradition from Lincoln to Reagan — succeeded because they anchored conservative thinking and policies in the founding principles of our nation. They did so not because of mere “history” or “tradition” — but because they understood the need to revitalize the unchanging truths that inspired the birth of America.
Let those truths inspire us again! Let them re-ignite the sparks of hope for a new generation of Americans who love freedom!
Rep. Ryan, a Republican, has represented Wisconsin’s 1st District since 1999.