Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation on the way forward for conservatives and the need for a new conservative reform agenda.
The following are selected excerpts from the speech:
“The ideas that defined and propelled the Reagan Revolution did not come down from a mountain etched in stone tablets. They were forged in an open, roiling, diverse debate about how conservatism could truly meet the challenges of that day. That debate invited all conservatives and as we know, elevated the best… Together, that generation of conservatives transformed a movement that was anti-statist, anti-communist, and anti-establishment, and made it pro-reform. Contrary to the establishment’s complaints, conservatives in the late 1970s did not start a “civil war.” They started a (mostly) civil debate. Because of that confident and deeply conservative choice – to argue rather than quarrel, to persuade rather than simply purge - the vanguards of the establishment never knew what hit them. The bottom line was that in 1976, the conservative movement found a leader for the ages, yet it still failed. By 1980, the movement had forged an agenda for its time and only then did it succeed.”
“It’s time for another Great Debate, and we should welcome all input. Grassroots and establishment. Conservatives and moderates. Libertarians and traditionalists. Interventionists and non-interventionists. Economic conservatives and social conservatives. All are part of our movement, and all are vital to our success – so all should be welcome in this debate. There are still nearly three years before Republicans will have a chance to select a new, unifying conservative leader. But together we can start debating and developing a new, unifying conservative agenda right now.”
“I submit that the great challenge of our generation is America’s growing crisis of stagnation and sclerosis - a crisis that comes down to a shortage of opportunities. This opportunity crisis presents itself in three principal ways: immobility among the poor, trapped in poverty; insecurity in the middle class, where families just can’t seem to get ahead; and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic elites unfairly profit at everyone else’s expense. The Republican Party should tackle these three crises head on.”
“To do my part, today I want to talk about four pieces of legislation specifically designed to address four leading challenges facing middle-class families today: the cost of raising children, the difficulties of work-life balance, the time Americans lose away from work and home, stuck in traffic, and the rising costs of and restricted access to quality higher education. These bills won’t solve every problem under the sun. Raising a family isn’t supposed to be easy. But each would restore to working families more of the freedom they deserve to pursue their happiness: to earn a good living and build a good life.”
“Especially in the wake of recent controversies, many conservatives are more frustrated with the establishment than ever before. And we have every reason to be. But however justified, frustration is not a platform. Anger is not an agenda. And outrage, as a habit, is not even conservative. Outrage, resentment, and intolerance are gargoyles of the Left. For us, optimism is not just a message – it’s a principle. American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude, and cooperation, and trust, and above all hope. It is also about inclusion. Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics. This, too, is part of the challenge before us.”