WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a speech last week before The Ripon Society, New York Times columnist David Brooks discussed what he called an “ancient Republican tradition” in American politics – the tradition of Republicans standing for a limited, but energetic, government.
“To me,” Brooks stated, “there are two parties in this country, but there are three traditions. There’s a liberal tradition that believes in using government to enhance equality. There’s a free market libertarian tradition that believes in reduced government to enhance freedoms. And then there’s a third tradition -- and that’s a tradition that believes in a limited, but energetic, government to enhance social mobility.”
“My grandparents were immigrants,” Brooks continued. “And when you come to this country, especially from immigrant stock, you get a sense that the country is here to enhance social mobility, so people can rise. We have a tradition oriented around that.” Brooks stated that this tradition dates back to Alexander Hamilton and is reflected in the statements and policies of Abraham Lincoln, who, he noted, supported the Land Grant College Act, the Homestead Act, and created the railroad system, “not to shield people from the market, but to give people the means to compete in the market.”
Brooks further noted that this tradition ended after the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. “It went away,” he explained, “because in the 20th century, we got caught in a big argument about socialism vs. libertarianism. The argument was big government vs. small government. And so the limited, but energetic, government argument was lost.”
Yet according to Brooks, with social mobility on the decline and middle class wages stagnant, the need to have a new debate over the importance of smaller, smarter government has never been greater. Unfortunately, he added, actions by the Administration over the past 12 months has made this very difficult to achieve. “The problem for me at the moment,” he explained, “is because of what President Obama has done and the aggressive expansion of the federal government this past year, we are suddenly thrown back into that old 20th century argument of big government vs. small government.
“It’s very difficult for anybody who believes in some government to enhance capitalism and competition to be heard. And the fact is, where the Republican Party is going – where Marco Rubio is going and where Rand Paul is going – it’s an understandable reaction to what we’ve seen over the last year. But as a governing agenda, as a way to put the country on fiscal footing, it’s just not an agenda.
“So I think there’s going to be this protest that we’re going to see this year, but then there’s going to be something that comes afterward when Republicans gain. And it’s going to have to be a more positive agenda.”
Brooks’ speech to The Ripon Society occurred last Wednesday, April 26th, as part of the centrist Republican group’s 2010 Policy and Politics Series. Brooks was introduced by Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry (TX-13), a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence who also serves on The Ripon Society’s Honorary Congressional Advisory Board. Around 75 people attended the event. Also attending from the Congressional Advisory Board were Representatives Judy Biggert (IL-13), Vernon Ehlers (MI-3), Jo Ann Emerson (MO-8), and Leonard Lance (NJ-7), and former Representatives Nancy Johnson (CT), Deborah Pryce (OH), and Bill Frenzel (MN), who also serves as Chairman Emeritus of The Ripon Society.
To watch Thornberry’s introduction and Brooks’ remarks, please click on the links below:
The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 -- Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of the Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s past success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.