Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Farewell from the Hammer

There has been so much concentration on the end of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi over the last few days that few people noticed yesterday was former Representative Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex.) last day in Congress.

I have issues with Tom DeLay. My primary beefs have nothing to do with why the left hates him – to wit, his effectiveness at marshalling legislation and driving the Republican agenda. My issues have to do with the brusqueness of his style and the way he went from being a true-blue conservative to an inside-the-Beltway turf-guarder in the course of his 22 years in power.

That having been said, DeLay’s farewell speech from the House well yesterday is perhaps the most direct and poignant encapsulation of the conservative viewpoint I have heard in years. The whole text of his farewell speech is here – and I encourage you to read it in its entirety – but here are a few key segments that might as well have been penned by Ronald Reagan, and are particularly apt for our dialogue here at TPS:

In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the "good old days" of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

I can't do that. Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker - properly understood - is not a symptom of a democracy's weakness, but of its health and strength - especially from the perspective of a political conservative.

Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy - and a proud one with a great tradition in this country - with a voracious appetite for growth. In any time or place, on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? "More." More government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and decisions and wallets.

If conservatives don't stand up to liberalism, no one will! And for a long time around here . . . almost no one did.

***

The point is: we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate - often loudly, and often in vain - to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view. We debate here on the House floor. We debate in committees. We debate on television, and on radio, and on the Internet, and in the newspapers. And then every two years, we have a HUGE debate... and then in November we see who won.

That is not rancor.

That is democracy!

***

For all its faults, it is partisanship - based on core principles - that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.

***

It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first-principle. For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don't.

***

Conservatism is often unfairly accused of being insensitive and mean-spirited... sometimes, unfortunately, even by other conservatives. As a result, conservatives often attempt to "soften" that stereotype by over-funding broken programs or glossing over ruinous policies. But conservatism isn't about feeling people's pain... it's about curing it.


Amen, Tom. Amen.

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