I sent my first paycheck as a bagboy at the A&P when I was in high school – $19 and some cents – as a contribution to the Barry Goldwater campaign.
As all Human Events readers will know or remember, we got slaughtered in that election. Senator Goldwater lost by 22.6 percent – or approximately 16 million votes, and the U.S. House ended up with 295 Democrats to 140 Republicans.
Some pundits and commentators said then that the Republican Party was dead. Yet, just two years later, 1966, we picked up 48 seats in the House, six in the Senate, and eight governorships, including Ronald Reagan in California.
Fast forward to 1990, and President George Bush (the first) went back on his no new taxes pledge. Before that, most polls were predicting a 20 to 30 seat GOP gain in the House.
House Republicans held a panicky late night meeting in the Cannon Caucus Room. Ed Rollins, then the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Republican candidates had lost 10 points overnight.
He told us to run as far away from the President as we could. A day or two later, Rollins was fired, most assumed on orders from the White House.
Then we had the disastrous 1992 elections which put Bill Clinton into the White House. Once again, experts and columnists said that the Republican Party was on the way out.
Yet, just two years later, we took back control of the House and Republicans won historic victories in state legislatures all over the Country.
Fast forward once again to the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. After that, the cries were even louder that because of demographic trends, the Republican Party was dead or at least dying.
But, surprise, surprise, in 2010, we regained control of the U.S. House. In my home state of Tennessee, our 12 top offices (Governor, two Senators, nine Congressmen) went from a 6-6 tie to 10 Republicans to just 2 Democrats. Our evenly divided State House saw a pick-up of 14 seats (out of 99) for the Republicans.
Now, because we lost a few elections that we should have won, some of my Republican colleagues have hit the panic button.
They have either said or at least implied that we have to become more like the Democrats if we are going to survive.
Actually, the truth is just the opposite.
We will not survive if we become Democrats lite. It will not excite or inspire anyone if we base our party primarily on being able to run or manage big government better than the Democrats.
We must continue to provide a truly conservative alternative- one based on the things that made this Nation great in the first place- free enterprise, private property, individual freedom.
We should especially emphasize fiscal conservatism and convince people that huge deficits are going to ruin social security and kill jobs and really mess up everything.
In the long run people will not be happy or satisfied with a socialist mediocrity that drags everyone down.
We certainly should not pay attention to liberal columnists and commentators who are not our friends in the first place.
They are gleefully dancing on a grave that is empty and in which we will never be unless we fail to present a truly conservative alternative.
As my friend, former Senator Howard Baker, wrote four years ago, Republicans will come back because President Obama’s administration ultimately will overreach or underachieve or both.
Conservatism that is presented accurately and enthusiastically will appeal to millions of young voters and even to minority voters. More importantly, it will save this Nation from economic ruin.
Congressman John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tenessee.