Commentary: Who Stole My Republican Party?

by Placerville Newswire / Mar 14, 2016 / comments

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."  - Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President

[By Frank Stephens]

Has Donald Trump stolen my Republican Party? No. The thievery began decades ago and Trump is simply administering the coup de graće.

In 1994, Republican leaders guided the Party toward what they called a "permanent majority." It wasn’t to be -- the Republican Revolution of 1994 fell into a deep pothole our own leadership dug. Us party loyalists had confidence that historic Republican principles and convictions would draw the American people in and reward our efforts. And it did, before we were betrayed by party leadership, similar to recent betrayals.

How far and steep the fall has been. November 2006 was a well-deserved trouncing. Even before voters cast their ballots, Nancy Pelosi knew she would soon be House Speaker, and was already making transition plans. Will 2016 see a repeat?

Where did it all go so wrong? How did we go from the big ideas and great dreams of 1994 to the trash heap of meaningless wedge issues and pork spending of the 109th Congress?

The answer is simple: Republican lawmakers forgot the party's principles, became enamored with power and position, and began putting politics over policy. In 2008 Democrats reaped the rewards of our abandonment of principles, and Republican leadership is to blame. With the November elections just around the corner I see a huge failure of leadership again looming on the horizon.

 From its inception in 1854 and from its earliest stand against theoppressive institution of slavery, the Republican Party has defined itself as the protector of individual freedom. Not today -- 153 years later, many in the Party of Lincoln are wavering on foundational principles. We must redirect our course back to the basic tenets of our common Republican philosophy--a philosophy that includes among its creed:

•       A Belief in Smaller Government: To preserve the sanctity of liberty of the individual, it is our belief that government must necessarily be limited. Otherwise, the paternalism of the few would restrict the freedom of the many to decide what is best for them.

•       Support of the Federalist System of Government: To bring power closer to the people, it is imperative we restrict the growth of a centralized federal government....States ought to have the power to determine which programs and measures would be most appropriate and fitting for them.

•       Fiscal Conservatism: In keeping with our desires for the greatest individual liberty, we support policies of limited taxation and government spending.

•       Strong National Defense: We believe the best way to preserve the peace and protect our national interests abroad comes through a strong national defense.

•       Individual Liberties and Responsibilities: Along with individual liberties come individual responsibilities and duties. Government must act to preserve freedom, while individuals must exercise their responsibilities to preserve order.

•       Tolerance, Inclusiveness, and Optimism: We believe in the right of fellow Republicans to disagree on certain matters of principle and policy. We believe in being an open and inclusive party respectful of different points of view. We are indeed a "big-tent" party that offers no "litmus tests" or barriers to entry.

I am bewildered as I witness some of our Republican lawmakers in Washington, DC, authoring and advocating for legislation diametrically opposed to the very principles of the Party they claim membership in. Republican lawmakers recently have proposed legislation that will establish new massive government bureaucracies, raise taxes, limit individual freedom, and destroy private property rights.

Spending under Republicans was out of control. Rather than rolling back government, Republicans gave us a $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, and non-defense discretionary spending that grew twice as fast as it had in the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, Social Security is collapsing while Iran is going nuclear and threatening to blow up Israel. All the while, the best the Democrats can come up with is to announce defeat in the Middle East.

Will Republicans respond?

When we remember our roots and act like us we win. When we act like Democrats, we lose.

The Republican victories of 1994 provided a revolutionary opportunity to restore constitutional democracy to America. Can we regain this fumbled opportunity or has our best chance in years been squandered? I pray it has not. For the danger of failure is ominous; if we are to restore self-government the first step is to put a chokehold on centralized bureaucratic government, in our states and federal government. And the changes cannot be merely cosmetic.

As Winston Churchill remarked, one cannot guarantee victory, one can only deserve it. As Republicans, we must conduct ourselves so we deserve to win.

In Abraham Lincoln’s last speech, he declared his commitment to acting on behalf of what is right when he said, "Important principles may, and must, be inflexible."

The Party of Lincoln only recently became the party of compromise and appeasement. Will we demand a return to a party of principles and convictions?

(Frank R. Stephens was a government affairs consultant in Sacramento, Republican county central committee member, and member of the California Republican Assembly. He may be reached at