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A Federalist Agenda

Some Advice for the Republicans

After eight years in power, conservatives are down in the mouth. The right feels as out in the cold as it was during the wilderness period, fifteen years ago; and this time it does not even have much of a communist menace to fall back upon.

Establishment Republicanism, as personified by George Bush, is in the saddle leading the nation under a conservative banner, but with a pragmatic agenda. The Republican Party itself is a captive, the indictment continues, so the only answer is for conservatives to turn away from all of this, establish a new party with a pure agenda, and to rush off to battle the GOP country club crowd.

Déjà vu: it is 1976 again and Ronald Reagan has been defeated for the nomination. The Republicans are led by Gerald Ford, and the only possible future for our party is more establishment control. So, from Kevin Phillips to Richard Viguerie, the goal becomes creating a new conservative party as the only possible route to power. Yet, as my opposing paper for a national meeting of conservative leaders just following the election in 1976 argued, we were on the threshold of taking over the Republican Party; and we needed to stay to complete the job.

An American political party is simply a set of electoral rules and a group of potential voters whose past feelings or future hopes identify them with it. The party is a legal and organizational shell that must be infused with vitality, vision,...

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