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Reagan Won By Violating His Own 11th Commandment

Reagan's 11th Commandment

The Democrats who long for days when Republicans like Howard Baker and Bob Michael were running the show and the parties could “work together” remind me of the old segregationists who would say, “Don’t get me wrong: I like blacks; some of them, like old Uncle Tom down the road, are like a member of our family. It is these new young radicals, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Andrew Young that make me nervous.”

In other words, the segregationist knew his place and old Uncle Tom knew his place, and the discomfort came when the new young activists rightly wanted to change that arrangement. This same concept applies to the civil war for the soul of the Republican Party.

The progressive establishment longs to return to the day when everyone knew their place and the new young radicals of thirty or forty years ago, like Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Newt Gingrich, and now Tony Perkins, Jenny Beth Martin, Tim Huelskamp, Justin Amash, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, were not rocking the boat and effectively opposing the growth of government.

There’s an old saying that the fight starts when someone strikes the second blow—there was no fight as long as establishment Republicans did not oppose the liberals’ Big Government agenda.

Once conservatives started fighting back, the Left began to scream bloody murder, but it was not a fight until conservatives fought back—and it is the same today.

So as long as conservatives didn’t push back against the betrayal of our principles by Republicans, like the two Presidents Bush, there was no fight—Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul have struck the second blow and are fighting back, and as soon as they and their grassroots limited-government constitutional conservative supporters did push back, we were accused of starting an intraparty brawl.

Ronald Reagan and his key advisors understood this.

When Reagan ran for president in 1976, he ran against the entire Republican establishment; and when he remarked that we need new leaders, leaders unfettered by old ties and old relationships, he was talking about the establishment Republican Party and its “dime store Democrat” leadership, such as Ford, Nixon, Rockefeller, and their big business supporters.

The Tea Party is now the fourth leg of the conservative stool precisely because it is “unfettered.”

In January 2010 I was the Friday night keynote speaker in Dallas, Texas, for a weekend of training for about 125 Tea Party leaders from around the country. I met with a dozen or so Tea Party leaders before my speech and about the same number after my speech; among them was a lady from Corpus Christi, Texas, who was a leader of a Tea Party group with about three thousand members.

Republican politicians would frequently call, asking to attend their meetings, and she would say they were welcome to attend and would be introduced, but admonished them, “You don’t speak; you listen to us.” I don’t know a conservative leader at the national level who would talk to a Republican politician that way, and that is one reason why I say the Tea Party is a new, separate leg of the conservative coalition, unfettered by old ties and old relationships to the Republican Party.

Reagan’s campaign against the establishment Republicans was every bit as tough, or tougher, than his campaign against Jimmy Carter. Reagan won because he charted a new course and campaigned as a conservative; he did not allow himself to become “fettered” to the old leaders and the old weaknesses of the establishment Republican Party.

The Republican establishment likes to hide behind what they call Reagan’s eleventh commandment—thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. This of course conveniently glosses over the fact that Reagan was a tough campaigner and a vigorous advocate of conservative principles.

In 1976 Reagan had lost several primaries and was in danger of being knocked out of the presidential race. As the North Carolina primary approached, Senator Jesse Helms and Tom Ellis urged him to stay away from the state and let them handle the campaign unless he would do four things: attack President Ford; attack Henry Kissinger; attack the giveaway of the Panama Canal, and attack détente. Reagan agreed and attacked Ford and Kissinger and their weak foreign policy; he won the North Carolina Republican primary in an upset and kept his campaign alive.

In 1980 Reagan was equally tough on George H. W. Bush, famously reminding him, “I paid for this microphone” in a New Hampshire debate and showing Bush to be thin-skinned and petulant.

The bottom line is that the front-runner always wants a truce on negative ads.

Establishment Republicans also like to quote William F. Buckley Jr.’s dictum about supporting the most conservative candidate “who can be elected.” The problem is that so many establishment Republicans have become addicted to Big Government that they no longer qualify as conservatives. Supporting them as “conservatives” confuses voters and seriously weakens the Republican brand. 

(Order Viguerie's new book, TAKEOVER, from Amazon here.)

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