Published March 09. 2014 4:00AM
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there."
The Republican Party, as it continues to tumble down a rabbit hole, is proving the "Alice in Wonderland" author's point.
The party is floundering. Republicans are told they should reject internal voices that advocate a conservative doctrine. That advice is partly correct, for if the Republican Party is to remain viable it will need to extricate the neo-conservative agenda that brought the Iraq War, nation building and promoting democracy by military force. The party also needs to learn the lesson from such domestic big government, social engineering boondoggles as "No Child Left Behind."
The party must erase the conservative caricatures painted by Democrats and the media and explain why America needs a dose of classical conservatism and guiding principles - not from a failed Bush doctrine - but from the kind of conservatism championed by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Economics is a discipline that has been snatched by the left and is now used to provoke class envy.
Who spoke these words? "There are…ways by which the federal government can…aid economic growth…I am talking about the accumulated evidence… that our present tax system exerts too heavy a drag on growth…. that it siphons out of private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort.
"(To) lift the economy the federal government's most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures but to expand the opportunities for private expenditures… next year's tax bill should reduce personal as well as corporate income taxes."
Was it Reagan? Barry Goldwater? It was from President John F Kennedy's 1962 speech to the Economic Club of New York. There was a time when Democrats understood the laws of economics do not bow to political affiliation. Classical conservative Republicans must remind people of this reality as they make the case for tax cuts and reforming America's galactic tax code.
Recently the Republican controlled House approved extending the government's borrowing authority. It's bad enough Republicans couldn't find any places to cut spending, but making matters worse, they joined Democrats in waiving the debt limit until March 15, 2015. Since there is no limit for a year, the federal government can borrow as much as it wants. Congress has essentially relinquished its constitutional authority to control spending.
Long before the Bush doctrine and neo-conservatives ascendency to power in 1994, the country gave the Republican Party sweeping victories in Congress. The Contract with America was a worthy blueprint, however not ever followed through on. The combined budgets of 95 programs the Contract pledged to eliminate increased by 13 percent in 2000. That's not a record of achievement, but of abandonment.
Republicans again have a chance to win big in the next election. For that to happen across the country and right here in Connecticut, they will have to return to their roots and explicitly denounce the failed policies backed by the neo-conservative right and forcefully articulate the virtues of classical conservatism.
Matt Daly is a former policy scholar at the Yankee Institute and was a Republican candidate for Congress in 2010. He lives in Glastonbury.