Thursday, July 2, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Since I announced that I would run for a seat on the First Court of Appeals in the fall of 2007, I have been asked a lot about my views on legal and political issues. I provided answers on my campaign website, in responses to questionnaires, in public forums, during private conversations, and in postings on this website. Though I will continue to answer these questions over the next few months, I want to focus this post less on my views than on our current predicament, on those beliefs that most Republicans share, and on how both issues relate to two of the goals outlined in the proposed strategic plan posted at www.FutureoftheHCRP.com.
The primary point of agreement among today’s Republicans is that ours is the major “Conservative” party in this country. The harder question to answer is what “Conservative” means—and that question creates many of the fault lines within our party. To understand the Republican Party, and how to unite it, I believe you first have to understand these fault lines and the factions they create.
Arguably there are four major factions that form the Republican alliance: Traditional “Republicanism”; Burkian Conservatism; libertarianism; and Social Conservatism. Reagan, Jack Kemp, Bill Brock, and many others, worked hard in the late 1970s to bring these factions together to form the modern GOP, which crystallized during the 1980s and early ‘90s. When we’ve worked together, the party has grown and we’ve won elections. When we’ve divided along our fault lines and fought with each other, when we’ve demanded purity of thought or commitment to one faction or another, or when we’ve failed to promote the principles we share, we’ve lost elections. We lost elections in Texas and nationally over the last two election cycles, in part, because all three vices took control of our party.
This problem is acute in Harris County. Since the early 1990s we have won elections in spite of our continued civil war between Traditional Republicans and Social Conservatives, and their mutual antipathy toward libertarians. We won because the Democrats were so discredited that they left the playing field. We had the luxury to ignore our need to unite and grow the party, and to focus instead on building careers and power centers around the battling factions.
In the meantime, Burkian Conservatives like me, whose conservatism is based primarily on our study of history and philosophy, and who came of age politically embracing the teachings and initiatives of Buckley, Kirk, Goldwater, Reagan, Kemp, and Sowell (among others) whose intellectual roots trace back to at least the writings of Edmund Burke, have been left to watch this war absorb the energy of the GOP without an effective ability to stop it, or to re-focus the party's energy. To put it bluntly, the party drifted away from the ideas that united it, and, in doing so, failed to live up to the promise those ideas contained—the promise of creating solutions for all our communities that would lead to a great realignment of voting blocks away from the Democratic Party and to the GOP. This failure came home to roost here in Harris County in 2008, when the Democratic Party finally placed a team on the playing field, while we were still engaged in an intramural scrimmage.
The shame of this battle is that we all agree on far more than we disagree—that’s why we are Republicans. We are all Traditional Republicans to the extent that we want to preserve the institutions that have protected our liberties and our free-market/free trade economic system, while allowing for societal innovation. We are all libertarians to the extent that we believe in a limited role for government, and the economic principles of Hayek and Freidman. We are all social conservatives to the extent that we believe that we must maintain a proper balance between the isolation and chaos caused by promoting unbridled liberty and the tyranny created by regimented conformity to one specific set of customs and traditions, and to the extent we believe that the inalienable right to life includes the lives of both the child and the mother.
At the core of our strategic plan is the goal to elect Republicans; but to continue to elect Republicans in Harris County, in Texas, and nationally, we must re-unite this party around the principles we share, and then have the courage of our convictions to spread these principles to new voters in every community. In other words, we must re-embrace the ideas that first united us 30 years ago, and then step back onto the political playing field to engage our real opponent for the hearts and minds of our neighbors.
I am one Republican who is through with the old paradigm of allowing our civil war to absorb the time and energy of this party. I am committed to ending it and re-focusing our party on electing Republicans.
posted by Ed Hubbard 5-8-09
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
To those of us of a certain age, Jack Kemp embodied both the promise and the future of an energetic conservatism. Although he had been a Hall of Fame pro quarterback and a Congressman for several terms, Kemp burst on the national political scene in the late 1970s with new ideas about economic and tax policy, and the application of conservative principles to the problems of urban America. He appeared to be the leader who would take the Reagan Revolution to the next level and the next generation.
But that never happened.
Although Kemp would never be far away from the leadership of the Republican Party and conservative politics, and would even serve as a Cabinet Secretary and Bob Dole’s Vice-Presidential candidate, Kemp never sought or seized the mantle of leadership that many of us expected—and kept awaiting, year after year. Had he stepped forward, would this “happy warrior” have been able to keep the factions of the GOP together to help convert the Contract of America into a lasting majority? Would he have expanded the party into minority neighborhoods—a goal about which he often spoke and wrote. These are questions that now will never have answers.
However, we do know that many of Kemp’s ideas worked—and worked well. His ideas about economic and tax policy, which were implemented by the Reagan Administration started the unprecedented era of economic growth that lasted for a quarter century. His ideas for urban policies, including public housing policies, enterprise zones, welfare reform, and school vouchers were found to be successful when implemented by the first Bush Administration, Giuliani’s Administration in New York City, Tommy Thompson’s Administration in Wisconsin, and many other state and local governments (and even the Clinton Administration). Unfortunately, the GOP never developed a comprehensive strategy to aggressively pursue these goals as part of a coherent policy agenda.
I have to admit that many of the objectives and action items contained in the proposed strategic plan for the HCRP posted on this website are derived from the ideas that Jack Kemp originally championed. In honor of Jack Kemp, let’s take his dreams and show that they can be molded into a coherent policy agenda. I still share his cockeyed optimism that if we do pursue this agenda, we will rise above the cynical calculations of men like Specter, the perversion of our economy and government by the current administration, and the mistakes we Republicans have made in the past, to create a brighter day for our party, our county, our state, and our country.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I am both a neighbor, and a loyal member of the Republican Party. Although I would like to see this tea-party movement strengthen conservatism and the Republican Party, that prospect will only materialize if the GOP listens to us and responds accordingly. However, in the non-partisan spirit of the Tea Party movement, I want to speak briefly as a neighbor, rather than as a member of any party.
The only way that this movement, or any movement, will lead to needed reform is if we start by being honest with each other. We need to challenge each other to do two things in the aftermath of these events: 1. we need to go home and look in the mirror; and, then, 2. we need to follow the path of the original tea party participants.
We all need to look in the mirror and understand that the person we see is both the source of the problem, and the source of the solution. The government in Washington did not usurp its authority in a vacuum. We enabled its growth when we didn't become involved in the lives of our neighbors, our schools and our communities. We enabled its growth when we asked it to underwrite both our comforts and our risks.
The solution is simple, though the execution will be difficult. We must commit to retaking control of our destinies, and the destinies of our families, schools, neighborhoods, and businesses, or else we will not subdue the current Statism that we allowed to fester and grow. Gaining Liberty was hard work, and maintaining it is even harder. We now must commit ourselves to re-gaining, as well as maintaining our liberty.
Once we've made that commitment, we need to use these tea parties to follow the path of our forefathers by actively engaging in a political movement at every level of government to regain our liberty and regain control of our destinies. In order to regain that control, we need to stop asking Washington for assistance--just as our forefathers stopped asking London for assistance over 230 years ago. In remaining vigilant along this path, we must make the pledge to each other of sacrifice that our forefathers made—the pledge of our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Cheerleading, party self-promotion, and Democrat-bashing will not keep this movement going--only honesty and commitment will. So, as we begin to follow this difficult path, we need to call on our political leaders to earn the right to be the vehicles through which we pursue this movement, which they will do when they recommit themselves and their party to embrace and pursue the fundamental principles of our Republic. My hope and prayer is that my party--the Republican Party--will answer our call for leadership.
posted by Ed Hubbard 4-20-09
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
First, I believe that the story of America is exceptional. The people who voluntarily came and settled here during the 200-year period from the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s brought with them a commitment to the basic struggle to accept the gift of liberty, and to balance the exercise of that liberty with the admonition to love our neighbor. Because there was no state or elite class on this continent, these settlers were free to form self-governing neighborhoods as they pushed westward, in which they married and raised families, worked and produced wealth, and created churches, organizations, schools and local governments to protect and nourish these neighborhoods. When it came time to form colonial, state, and national governments, they limited the scope and responsibility of these governments in order to preserve the centrality of the family and the neighborhood to their lives. In other words, our founders committed themselves to live within a localized system of ordered liberty. This system of ordered liberty was the exceptional experiment to which Americans committed themselves.
Second, when, in the mid-1800s, the profound tragedy of slavery finally threatened to tear our country apart, those who were still committed to this experiment, and who believed that it must apply to all Americans, formed a new party, the Republican Party, to preserve and fight for the nation the settlers had created. Over the next century, the party would take the lead in every era to pass civil rights legislation and constitutional amendments to expand the experiment to include all men and women.
Third, when, starting in the 1930s, the Democratic Party became committed to imposing on America some form of social welfare state similar to those embraced in Europe, and our security was threatened by the rise of totalitarianism abroad, the Republican Party became the primary home for those who opposed the welfare state and the ideologies that fed totalitarianism, and who sought to preserve the experiment of ordered liberty to which our settlers committed themselves. A clear example of the differences we began to draw in the 1930s between the philosophy of the Democratic Party and the philosophy of the GOP, are two quotes from that period—the first from a prominent Democrat, and the second from a prominent Republican:
Democrat: Economic security was attained in the earlier days through the interdependence of members of families upon each other and of the families within a small community upon each other. The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security. Therefore, we are compelled to employ the active interest of the Nation as a whole through government in order to encourage a greater security for each individual who composes it.
Republican: It is all old, very, very old, the idea that the good of men arises from the direction of centralized executive power, whether it be exercised through bureaucracies, mild dictatorships or despotisms, monarchies or autocracies. For Liberty is the emancipation of men from power and servitude and the substitution of freedom for force of government. …Those who proclaim that in a Machine Age there is created an irreconcilable conflict in which liberty cannot survive should not forget the battles of liberty over the centuries,…. It is not because Liberty is unworkable, but because we have not worked it conscientiously or have forgotten its true meaning that we often get the notion of the irreconcilable conflict with the Machine Age.
As our opposition to the welfare state and totalitarianism continued over the decades, the base of the GOP eventually expanded to include social conservatives and libertarians who shared our opposition to these movements and our desire to preserve our experiment. Although our enlarged party made great strides over the last 30 years in this fight, we now find our experiment again threatened by the new national administration.
I am agitating the HCRP to adopt a new strategic plan because I believe that our history and our principles are important to the future of this county, and that the future of this county is important to the future of Texas and this nation. Harris County, and its surrounding metropolitan area, comprise the largest metropolitan area in this state and nation in which a majority of voters are still politically conservative. We must take this opportunity to show the residents of this county that the GOP’s principles are relevant to the issues that they face in their daily lives in this diverse community, so that they don’t turn for their security to the welfare state.
If we adopt this approach, Republicans will continue to elect our candidates in Harris County, while making the HCRP a model for the party nationally. If we don’t pursue this path, the voting and demographic trends that started in 2006 will consume us here and across this state. If the GOP is to regain the trust of the voters and revitalize the vision of our founders, we must not lose this county to our opponents.
This is why I care, and this is why I am agitating the HCRP to follow a new strategic path.
posted by Ed Hubbard 4-15-09