Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-Ind.) address to CPAC on February 26, 2009:
As I stood on that cold January day atop the grassy hills surrounding the fort, in the theatre of my mind I could almost see the armada sailing up the river with hulls overflowing with the pride of having sacked the Capitol of the young country with little opposition.
But the long night would not end as they hoped. Here, amidst these earthen barricades, a small determined band of patriots would save the revolution because they would not yield.
I stand before you today at a historic moment for the conservative movement, and for this great country. The coming weeks and months may well set the course of this nation for the next generation.
This Administration and this Congress is barely a month old, and already the problems facing this nation have grown in magnitude — eclipsing the ones the nation faced when voters cast their ballots in November.
How we, as conservatives, respond to these challenges could determine whether America retains her place in the world as a beacon of freedom; or whether we slip into the abyss that has swallowed much of Europe in an avalanche of socialism.
While some are prepared to write the obituary on capitalism and our movement… I believe we are on the brink of a great American awakening.
I can feel it, I can hear it. Our nation’s founding revolution began with the rumblings of discontent. Back home in Indiana last week, I heard it – along with a lot of straight talk and common sense. Hoosiers recognize pork when they see it, and they recognize what bailing out every failing business in America means: we’re burying generations under a mountain range of debt.
One Indiana farmer at a town hall meeting last week summed it up nicely: “What you’re hearing out here, Congressman, is whole lot a frustration”…
This wise man summed up the feelings of the American people, and I couldn’t have said it better. People have good reason to be frustrated.
On Election Day, only 22 percent of Americans described themselves as “liberal,” yet voters sent to Washington the most liberal, one-party government in our nation’s history.
So what happened?
The truth is, Republicans didn’t just lose a few elections, we lost our way. We walked away from the principles that minted our national majority and the American people walked away from us…
So we’re in the wilderness….The only question now is…. what are we going to do about it?
There sure is a lot of advice out there, some of it even from Republicans.
We keep hearing that Republicans have to come up with new ideas and that we have to use new technology to take those ideas to voters who haven’t been coming our way lately.
Yes, we need to offer positive alternatives…
Yes, we need to take our message to every community in America…
But more than anything else, we need to be willing to fight ….for freedom and free markets and traditional moral values.
We need to be the loyal opposition.
We should support the president and his party in Congress whenever principle permits. And we must vigorously oppose the administration and the liberal Democratic majority every time consistency to principle demands.
After an election defeat, Winston Churchill described the duty before us saying… “it is the duty of every English party to accept political defeat cordially and to do their best endeavors to secure the success or to neutralize the evil of the principles to which we have been forced to succumb.” Churchill added, “It is good that we have no wish to be unfaithful to so wholesome a tradition.”
And neither do House Republicans…
And we will be that faithful and loyal opposition…we will stand up to the big government plans of the Left, and we will speak for the average American every day!
Like we did on the vote on the so-called stimulus bill. Every single House Republican opposed it on the floor of Congress. Every one.
The time for go-along to get along is over.
Margaret Thatcher used to say: First you win the argument, then you win the vote.
Although we lost the legislative battle, we won the argument because we proposed a better solution — tax relief for working families and small businesses-twice the jobs, at half the cost.
Republicans won the argument because we got back to basics: fighting for the principles and ideals that make this nation great…
We got back to fighting for basic economic freedom- free enterprise and fiscal responsibility
This is the way back — for our movement and our party.
Fighting for free enterprise means standing up for free markets. The freedom to succeed includes the freedom to fail. We must defend entrepreneurial capitalism against the onslaught of the American Left.
Even in these challenging economic times… especially in these challenging times…
The American people know what makes sense and what doesn’t.
We can’t borrow and spend our way back to a growing economy.
We cannot bail out every failing business in America.
And we cannot ask hard working families who have played by the rules and paid their mortgages to bail out the irresponsible decisions of others.
Yet, that’s exactly what the Democrats are doing.
Worse, Americans aren’t being asked, they’re being told.
Earlier this week President Obama announced a plan to raise taxes in a recession to pay for massive federal spending on universal healthcare and global climate change. But there is no hope in mountains of debt and there is no change in higher taxes.
The truth is they just don’t get it.
After writing a stimulus bill that was nothing more than a wish list of liberal spending priorities and power grabs, Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to the House floor and said, “Every American is asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”
She thinks the American people are a bunch of congressmen!!
No, Madame Speaker, they wanted to know what’s in it, period. Which is more than you can say for the 246 Democrats who cast their votes for it.
The American people weren’t asking “what’s in it for me”… they were asking, what’s in it for America? What’s in it that will strengthen the foundations upon which our prosperity rests?
As the details of that bloated bill emerge, the answers to “what’s in it for America?” are all too clear. What’s in it for America is generations of debt, burdening our children and grandchildren with debt tomorrow to fund liberal priorities today — all with sore little chance of stimulating the economy.
Americans are not happy. And they know this is not just about dollars and cents… this is about who we are as a nation.
As Reagan said in 1964, it’s about whether “we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
My money is on the American people.
The morning after the banking bailout vote last fall, I was back home in Indiana and a man of modest means approached me, hat in hand, told me he’d lost his job the day before but came by to thank me for voting against the Wall Street bailout.
He looked me right in the eye and said, “Congressman, I came by to thank you cause I can get another job but I can’t get another country”…
For that brave American and on behalf of his right to live and work in freedom… Conservatives must oppose the march of big government that will stifle our recovery and change the nature of our country forever. And we must oppose it with everything we’ve got.
And it’s not just our economic freedom that is coming under assault. We’re also going to have to fight for our freedoms in the workplace and on the airwaves.
Free elections, without fear of intimidation or reprisal, are essential to an open democratic society. It has been the hallmark of this country since its birth; men and women going to cast their ballot in support of an idea or a candidate they believe best represents their interests.
The so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” envisions a world where workers would be denied privacy and forced to vote in an atmosphere of intimidation.
By pushing for Card Check, Democrats are trying to drive democracy from the workplace…
but the working men and women of America deserve better and Republicans will defend their right to a secret ballot.
And the freedom to listen to what we want, who we want, when we want is also a blood-bought American right.
Despite assurances to the contrary from the White House, Democrats from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to California Senator Diane Feinstein all openly advocate a return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine to the airwaves of America.
But there’s nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine. Allowing bureaucrats to decide what opinions can be expressed on the public airwaves is nothing more than government rationing of free speech and it must be opposed.
We cannot permit the Democrats to censor the airwaves of America. We must pass the Broadcaster Freedom Act and once and forever, send this Doctrine of Censorship to the ash heap of broadcast history.
Finally, fighting for freedom means ensuring the blessings of liberty to our posterity, born and unborn. We must stand for the sanctity of life.
Ending an innocent human life is morally wrong.
It is also morally wrong to take the money of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to promote abortion at home and abroad.
The largest abortion provider in America should not be the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X. The time has come to deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America.
And Congress must restore the historic restrictions on foreign aid under the Mexico City policy. President Obama and Congress were wrong to allow our tax dollars to provide abortions around the world and the protections of the Mexico City and Kemp Kasten must be restored.
It’s clear to most people around the country that we face some pretty challenging times. Public confidence in many of our institutions has been shaken, and remains unsteady.
We must take action to get this economy back on track, and the American people back to work… meaningful action, the kind that creates and saves private sector jobs, not government bureaucracies.
And there is something more we must do — we must recognize that our present crisis in not merely economic and political but moral in nature.
At the root of these times is the realization that we are struggling because so many in authority have walked away from the timeless truths of integrity, personal responsibility… an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay… and the notion that we should live and work in a way that treats others as we would want to be treated.
The Old Book says, “If the foundations crumble, how can the righteous stand?”.
If the foundations of integrity and personal responsibility crumble, indeed how can a free society endure?
The truth is, we must get back to basics
Recently, U.S. News & World Report called to say they had heard a rumor that I open my staff meetings at the House Republican Conference in prayer.
Only in Washington, D.C. is being caught in private prayer a newsworthy event.
We told them, “Yes, the Congressman does open meetings in prayer… we prays for the President, for colleagues in both parties… and sometimes we even pray for the press!”
The truth is that in times like these it is good to “remember what your knees are for.”
Our founders believed in prayer… as did one of our greatest presidents… an Indiana farm boy… named Abe Lincoln…
At the height of a civil war and on the eve of a bloody battle on a field in Gettysburg, President Lincoln fell to his knees and prayed. Lincoln later recalled to a Union general, “I don’t know how it was, and I cannot explain it, but soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul. The feeling came that God had taken the whole business into His hands and that things would go right.”
Like millions of Americans, I’ve been spending some time on my knees lately and I’ve got the same feeling that, in the midst of these dark days, by His grace, things will go right again.
I close where this address began — standing, as I did just a few short weeks ago, on the barricades of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor.
Facing overwhelming opposition, and what must have seemed like the inevitable advance of defeat, a small band of regulars withstood 25 hours of bombardment at the hands of the British fleet.
And when the sun rose and smoke cleared, because of their courage and determination, our flag was still there.
A poem was written, an anthem inspired and a nation reborn to freedom and independence.
Inspired by their example, let us conservatives resolve this day that we, like they, will stand and fight we will not yield.
And with determination and courage and faith, we, like those Americans so many years ago, will hold the banner of freedom high and the good and great people of this land will rally to our cause.
So help us God.
You can watch Rep. Pence’s speech here.
Mr. Pence represents Indiana’s 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.