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The third conservative revolution

By Dick Armey, Jack F. Kemp, and C. Boyden Gray
web posted October 11, 2004

The liberal media and the political pundits always seem surprised whenever conservatives transform America's political landscape. Yet it's happened twice in the past three decades. They were surprised in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became President and passed supply side tax cuts, and they were surprised again in 1994 when the Contract with America nationalized the midterm elections and ended four decades of Democratic control of Congress.

Today, we'd like to give everyone a little advance warning: we're laying the groundwork for a third conservative revolution.

Ronald ReaganIn the first, Ronald Reagan came into office on the power of big ideas: sound monetary policy, tax relief based on supply-side economics, and a robust defense of Western democratic ideals. Just as important, President Reagan and his allies on Capitol Hill delivered these big ideas with cheerful optimism.

President Reagan believed in trusting the American people, capitalism, and a rollback of the Soviet Union. Rather than trying to plan and program America out of economic stagnation, he turned the job over to the American people. Ronald Reagan knew that "freedom works," and Reagan's big ideas delivered an economic miracle in just two years-- and a political landslide in 1984. Big ideas brought new voters to our side.

The second Republican Revolution came in 1994, when the House GOP successfully used the Contract with America to nationalize the election. The Contract, too, was based on big ideas and the fundamental principle that "freedom works." According to Newt Gingrich, the Contract turned out nine million new voters, and a new GOP majority that drove sweeping policy changes, including a budget surplus and an end to the welfare entitlement.

Despite all that the first two GOP Revolutions accomplished, the government is still too big, and core programs like Social Security and Medicare are heading towards financial insecurity.

Today, both politically and intellectually, the Republican Party and the conservative cause are ready for another major revolution. Without big ideas to guide our agenda, it is too easy to fall into the seduction of power and watch our bedrock principles and base erode away. Without a big, optimistic vision to improve America, conservatives slip into a cycle of negative and counterproductive sniping.

The environment is ripe for fundamental change, once again based on the powerful idea that "Freedom Works." Freedom works means scrapping the federal tax code and replacing it with one that is simple, low, honest, and flat. It means transforming Social Security into a program that has large Personal Retirement Accounts (PRAs) that individual workers own and control. It means fixing a broken legal system that is destroying innovation and eroding personal responsibility.

These are winning ideas, but as we've all seen throughout our political careers, it takes more than good ideas to be successful. Real change only comes when the political marketplace and the American people go out and demand it. Like the earlier revolutions, this next wave of policy change will come from outside the Beltway. Fortunately, that revolution is already underway. Average Americans are talking about Social Security reform and tax reform. Indeed, to date, 221 current candidates for federal office have signed the FreedomWorks/CSE Candidate Survey declaring their positions on Social Security Personal Retirement Accounts (PRAs), tax reform, and tort reform. Social Security reform, in particular, has the potential to transform the political landscape and mobilize new voters to the Republican cause and that's why President Bush has listed it in his outstanding Republican convention speech.

We've been here before, and we've also learned a few things about moving the political process. That's why CSE and EA are combining forces to create a new organization, FreedomWorks, to organize the leading edge of this next revolution. With hundreds of thousands of members, a multimillion dollar budget, and dozens of experienced, committed staff already in place, FreedomWorks will help drive the intellectual and grassroots fire that is launching the third conservative revolution. Using grassroots activism and aggressive voter education, we seek to build a freedom-loving, conservative governing majority based on ideas, not party affiliation, and we'll challenge the status quo politicians from both parties to help reform the political and economic landscape.

Freedom and free enterprise work. Freedom, as an organizing principle, is good policy and it is good politics. Take note: we're telling everyone, in advance, that the next conservative revolution is on the way because we all know, Freedom Works. 

Dick Armey, Jack F. Kemp, and C. Boyden Gray all serve as co-Chairmen of FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, economic growth and more freedom for all.

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