Summer is coming to an end as is evidenced by the return of children to school, the start of football season and the breezy hint of cooler temperatures to come. Looking at the political calendar, we are nearing the eight-month mark of the Obama administration and their allied, Democratically-led Congress.
So, as Congress sits in recess and the nation braces for the upcoming national health care fight, I thought it an appropriate moment to talk about the future of Republican politics. Not just how we can defeat health care or win more congressional seats in 2010 — but how we develop the coalitions necessary to ensure we are a party capable of standing strongly 10, 20, 50 years into the future. In essence, we must ensure we are a lasting party equipped to defend the principles of limited government, lower taxes, free markets, a strong national defense, and individual rights and responsibilities.
Today, with government spending increasing astronomically, with the prospect of one-fifth of our economy — in the form of the health care system — being turned over to government controls, these guidelines are all the more important. Thirty years ago, my father understood this, and that legacy has passed down to us.
Even as conservatives, we will not always agree, but if we respect those with dissenting opinions, we can grow even stronger in our determination to follow our shared values. Americans are increasingly, and rightfully, growing skeptical of policies that emphasize budget-busting government solutions, as opposed to empowering individuals, families and small businesses. Conservatives have a great opportunity and platform to move beyond the media stereotypes of Republicans as demoralized and dysfunctional and come together to reassert our strength and fight for our freedoms. Liberal, conservative or independent, there is much that unites us.
My father understood that good governance required strong coalitions. In order to move forward, this is something the Republican Party will need to understand as well. Today, as political maps show the Northeast and the Southeast entrenching further along party lines, the coalitions and partnerships which will shape our future are increasingly found in the West.
We have a new proving ground in the independent-minded West, with states like New Mexico, where the presidential election was decided by less than 6,000 votes in 2004 and by a mere 366 votes in 2000, and Colorado, a state so intensely contested between President Obama and Senator McCain in 2008. The West has always been a region of fierce independence and a willingness to buck traditions. The challenges we face today require that spirit and creativity.
Any new winning coalition must include America’s growing Hispanic population, which makes up over 20 percent of the population in six states from this Western bloc, as well as Florida. The Hispanic community has much in common with what I call conservative values, from an emphasis on family values to issues of law enforcement and education. I have seen this in my own home state of California.
Now is the time to win back the hearts and minds of all Americans and embrace the founding principles of this great nation. With so much at stake, this is an endeavor that will require all of our participation; no one group can do it alone. This undertaking will also require practical solutions and the leadership of young Americans, whose future is ever more on the line. We must build coalitions that honor our shared traditions and principles, or we will jeopardize our future. It’s time to come together.