PASADENA, November 16, 2015 – The second week of November 2015 has come to a close and it ended up being a significant one for the Republican Party. Fresh off of a debate hosted by CNBC that was universally dismissed as a partisan hit job, the Republicans rolled into Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the goal of finally sharing their detailed positions on policy in a fair and objective environment.
The debate met almost all expectations and after its conclusion, there were no shortage of theories as to who the real winner was.
Some said that Marco Rubio solidified himself as a top tier candidate with his well constructed statements of optimism and clear understanding of the issues, while others sided with former Harvard debate champion Ted Cruz who seems to always hold his own when the cameras are rolling, and there were even some who said that Jeb finally had a debate worth talking about.
While there were many candidates who had high and low moments during the debate, the title of winner can not be given to any particular person, but rather it should be placed on the Republican Party as a whole.
No, not because of the clear Fox victory over the media bias at CNBC and not because of the overall quality of the field, but because on Tuesday night Republicans finally discovered the most powerful and meaningful way to make their case to occupy the highest office in the land.
Often overlooked, the history of the Republican Party is far and away the most compelling reason for Americans today to cast their votes in favor of the GOP. This is the party that freed the slaves, fought tooth and nail against Democrats to guarantee basic civil rights to all Americans, ended the Vietnam War, defeated the Soviet Union, and brought the country countless other significant historical victories. Yet for some reason, today’s GOP candidates don’t bring up the fact that many of the ills that plague society today have been solved before by Republican presidents in the past.
Two names came up in Tuesday’s debate that likely have not been mentioned in a presidential debate in many, many years: Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower.
In both cases, the names of these two fine presidents were referenced in the context of a precarious situation from history that was successfully overcome and in both cases, that same kind of leadership could solve a similar problem today.
Conservative favorite Ted Cruz, brilliantly invoked the name of our 30th President Calvin Coolidge when asked about economic growth and sound money. These are two areas that Calvin Coolidge knew better than anyone perhaps in history.
Calvin Coolidge, in many ways, was the perfect president. He possessed the Washingtonian like desire to not be president. He didn’t want to do it. But, he stepped in during a time of great need and did it anyway, for the good of the country. During his time in office, he adopted every conservative move in the book. He slashed taxes, ruled with a stringent frugality, held firm to the gold standard, and oversaw massive economic growth. He left office with a smaller federal budget than he started with, imagine that. He was truly one of the greatest Republican presidents, and that’s saying something.
Donald Trump, who is the exact opposite of the soft spoken “Silent Cal” in almost every way, is not particularly known for his knowledge of historical events but even he realized the value in tapping into the extensive history of Republican successes during the debate on Tuesday.
He praised another stellar Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, for deporting millions of illegal immigrants who had taken advantage of a government program that had allowed immigrants from Latin America to fill the void that was left by American workers who had gone to war. There is disagreement about how delicately Eisenhower carried out his decision to deport these immigrants, but the reality is that he did it, and it worked.
A strong argument can be made for George Washington, but in my humble opinion, there was no more qualified and accomplished president in American history to assume the presidency than Dwight David Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the driving force that led the Allied forces to victory in World War II and is widely considered one of the greatest generals in American military history.
Like Washington and Coolidge before him, Dwight was a reluctant president who genuinely felt like the country needed him more than he needed to be president.
Not only was Ike an incredible success story during the years before moving to the White House, but he presided over an almost unprecedented period of peace and prosperity as America’s commander-in-chief. Dwight represents yet another wildly impressive Republican president that today’s GOP can point to as someone who solved some of the greatest issues of the day using conservative principles and bold leadership.
The exercise of reminiscing about the history of the Republican Party is made even more useful by the reality that the Democrats simply don’t have a legitimate pedigree. From their inception all the way through the 1960s, the Democratic Party was literally the party of institutional racism. The Republicans were the ones who pushed through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments while the Democrats firmly opposed all three. In fact, the KKK was created, encouraged, and cultivated almost exclusively by the Democratic Party.
In 1969, the last openly racist president, Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson, left office. After that, there isn’t much for Democrats to hang their hats on. Jimmy Carter? The impeachment of Bill Clinton? Sure, the economy was strong in the 1990s, but Republicans own that success as well seeing as they were in control of Congress during key stretches of that decade.
Bottom line, all of the problems that the country currently faces have been solved effectively in the past by Republican presidents. Why not talk about that?
Democrats don’t have much to talk about before 1992 and Republicans have over a century of success to draw from. That is significant and the more the GOP can articulate their roots, the better things will be for them.
Republicans mention Reagan whenever they get the chance, and rightfully so, but the list of conservative presidents who have been faced with and handled the problems we are facing today is massive and that is a winning message.
When it comes to the past, it’s not even close, Republicans have almost always been on the right side of history.
That’s incredibly important and it’s something that the party should shout from the rooftops. At least in the case of Trump and Cruz, it seems like the Republicans are starting to get it.
The liberal response to all of this is something along the lines of, “Who cares, that was a long time ago.” But, those who are students of history know that the old saying is uncompromisingly true, those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.