CPAC 2009: 'Conservatism Is Far From Dead'

As Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, allow me to welcome you to Washington, D.C. and CPAC 2009. In the face of a Democrat governing majority in Congress and a new liberal administration in the White House, this could be the most important gathering of conservatives in recent history.

We face remarkable challenges today as a nation, a party, and a movement. Our economy is in great despair and the American people are looking for bold leadership to renew our standing in the world. Unfortunately, Republican influence on public policy has waned, and those in power choose to embrace an extreme ideology that is anathema to America’s founding principles.

While Republicans are down in public opinion, it is important to appreciate that conservatism is far from dead. In the House of Representatives, I’m proud to report that, though there are fewer Republicans in the body, the conservative Republican Study Committee has strengthened its numbers and sphere of influence in the chamber. The RSC is committed to promoting positive, conservative solutions to every challenge we face. And with a greater share in our conference, we are well-positioned to move our party toward more conservative solutions.

Further, the strong heartbeat of national conservatism was clearly evident during the recent debate over the President’s so-called “stimulus” plan. Though the legislation was signed into law last week, the debate sparked a fire of discontent from Americans, shining light on the fact that we remain a center-right nation. On the day President Obama signed his misguided legislation, Rasmussen released a poll showing that less than two-out-of-five Americans thought this borrowing-and-spending package would help turn around the economy.

Yet, to be sure, Republicans remain far from the prominence we require to set the course for our national policy. Having failed to intelligently or ideologically define and communicate our principles to the American people, the party finds itself out of power, and many conservatives have lost faith in our leadership.

The Republican Party is at its best when its leadership has a bold vision rooted to conservative principles: personal responsibility, liberty, limited government, traditional values, providing for the common defense, and optimism about the future. These principles represent the lifeblood of America and our party. It is time that we again embrace these traditions and set a course for renewal.

Before coming to Congress, I helped transform the Republican Party in the State of Georgia from permanent minority party status to a governing, conservative, principled and solutions-based majority. Now, it is some of the most fertile ground for conservatives in the nation. This can be accomplished across the nation, but will require a new approach. We must restore credibility on the issues that concern the American people and be tireless in reaching out with an open ear.

Leaving petty politics to Democrats, we must again become the party of solutions. A new Republican platform of ideas and language must be created and championed, built on a foundation of conservative solutions. To advance these solutions, there must be a focus on nurturing our grassroots, shoring up ties with existing coalitions, and creating new infrastructure to meet the challenges of politicking in a new century. Further, we must go on offense. The American people need to know that we are fighting for them.

Moreover, no longer can Republicans cede the language or institutions. And we must remain unified and disciplined. Once, Americans valued “responsibility,” “self-determination,” and “hard work.” Now, these ideals have been replaced by fuzzy appeals to “diversity,” “fairness,” and “social justice.” Democrats have been successful in altering the mindset of what made this nation great through language and institutions.

Hostile Democrat majorities and liberal special interests are more energized than they have been in decades, and there are many battles ahead. From an attempt to eliminate secret ballot elections in union organizing to the trillions of dollars more that the administration seeks to spend to inject itself further into the private market; from their goals of a bureaucratic government-run health care system to the ongoing attacks on traditional American values, we must stand up and fight. As a unified and principled force for freedom, we will beat back the liberal Washington agenda and restore the principles upon which our party and proud nation were founded.

It is my hope that you will find bold ideas this week and be inspired for a call to action. Please join our team and follow the Republican Study Committee as we engage in the Battle of Ideas on your behalf. By bringing conservatives in Congress and across the country together for a national cause bigger than any of us, no challenge will be too great. I’m honored to join you in the cause!