Tom McClintock's Speech Saturday Night
February 21, 2009
When the Virginia Legislature invited Churchill to address them, he said, “Do you not think you are running some risk (by) inviting me to give you my faithful counsel on this occasion? … I might easily, for instance, blurt out a lot of things, which people know in their hearts are true, but are a bit shy of saying in public, and this might cause a regular commotion and get you all into trouble.”
I apologize in advance for serving up some cold and bitter truths with tonight’s dinner, but the events in Sacramento of the last few days simply cannot be ignored.
This is not a small or inconsequential matter. This is the biggest tax increase in our state’s history – in the worst economy in a generation – one that is aimed directly at the middle-class voters who have been the core of our support for 40 years – engineered by Republican legislative leaders and a Republican governor. It is a huge chunk – about $1,200 on average – out of the discretionary income of every family in this state just as they are struggling to make ends meet.
If the government has run out of money in these difficult times, what makes them think the people haven’t run out of money also?
We have to discuss this outrage as a party because until we address and redress it, our party will have no credibility to speak on this issue for a decade or more to come. It is this issue more than any other that has defined the binding principle that holds our party together. We may differ on many ancillary issues, but the one thing we have all agreed on is that our government is too big, too inefficient and it costs too much.
Take this proposition away, then what exactly does our party stand for?
Abraham Lincoln reminded the Illinois Republican State Convention in 1858 that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
So it is with political parties.
A political party cannot stand for two opposite principles at the same time.
A party cannot stand for taxpaying families while its leaders impose crushing new taxes on those families.
A party cannot stand for freedom of enterprise when its leaders impose increasingly draconian restrictions on enterprise.
A party cannot stand for fiscal responsibility when its leaders spend and borrow and tax with reckless abandon.
When our party promises one thing and our leaders deliver exactly the opposite, we lose all credibility with the voters – and rightly so.
When candidates claim our name, and enjoy our organizational, financial and volunteer resources, we have a right as a party to insist that those candidates abide by certain fundamental defining principles. We have a responsibility to remove them from office when they wantonly violate those principles and sully our name.
Fourteen years ago, this party recalled two sitting Republican legislators because they had voted for Willie Brown for Assembly Speaker, an act that didn’t directly affect a single individual in this state.
Fourteen years later, are we going to turn a blind eye to Republican legislators who broke signed promises and voted to hammer California families with an average of more than $1,200 of additional taxes in the midst of the worst recession in a generation?
The Democrats never promised not to raise taxes. We did. And our leaders broke that promise.
The concept of the big tent has always been that however we might disagree over issues such as the right to life, the right to self-defense, degrees of business or environmental, we at least all united in defense of families against the burdens of big government. We were the party of the taxpayers.
Now, in California, we are the anti-taxpayer party – so defined by the actions of our own leaders. To consent to those actions by silence is suicide.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Having spent a few months now in Washington, D.C., I can tell you that our Congressional leaders understand this reality. They understand that when our leaders abandoned our principles, our voters abandoned our party.
The Republican Congressional leadership is bound and determined to win back the trust of American voters by returning to our Republican principles.
We saw that leadership in action last week when every single Republican in the House of Representatives stood against the most reckless spending bill in the history of our nation. They rallied behind a Republican alternative that would have lifted the tax burdens on productivity and created twice the jobs at only half the cost of the Democrats’ spending plan.
In Washington, at least, the Republicans are again acting as the taxpayers’ party.
And it is working. Last fall, Rasmussen reported that a generic Democratic candidate for Congress had a 16-point advantage over the generic Republican candidate.
Last week, after Congressional Republicans stood firm, the same poll reported that this gap had narrowed to within a single percentage point.
Don’t we have a right to insist on the same fidelity among our elected leaders in California?
And don’t we have an obligation to enforce that insistence at the ballot box?
Ladies and gentlemen, there is an ebb and flow to politics that we’ve all seen and felt. Some people call it the political pendulum.
The new Administration in Washington is flush with victory, it is riding high in the opinion polls, and yet Americans are already taking a long, hard look at the policies they are pursuing and are already showing signs of having grave misgivings.
We’ve seen this before. Those who remember the administration of Jimmy Carter remember these same policies – and what four years of them did to our nation. We had to endure double-digit unemployment and inflation, interest rates over 20 percent, mile-long lines around gas stations, American embassies seized with impunity.
It was hell to go through. But the American people awoke and four years of Jimmy Carter gave us eight years of Ronald Reagan. Looking back, that wasn’t such a bad trade, was it?
It was Reagan who then said that, "Our people look for a cause to believe in.” He called for “a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors, which make it unmistakably clear where we stand…”
Lincoln said that if the voters get their backsides too close to the fire, they’ll just have to sit on the blisters a while. Our nation has some very painful blisters it is going to have to sit on, but in the next election, our people will indeed be looking for a new and revitalized second party.
But before we can restore our majority, we are going to have to make it unmistakably clear where we stand.
Great parties are built upon great principles – and they are judged by their devotion to those principles.
The defining principle of the Republican party has always been summarized in one word: FREEDOM. The closer we have hewn to that principle, the better we have done; and the farther we have strayed from that principle, the worse we have done.
The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is newly re-dedicated to that principle, and the American people are already responding.
Tonight, the people of California are reeling at the news that the party that had promised to protect them from higher taxes has now socked them with a tax increase so great that it will be felt keenly around every kitchen table from Eureka to San Diego.
They are looking to this, the State Convention of the California Republican Party, for an explanation.
The very first answer we owe them, and the very first step in that long and painful road to Republican redemption must be to repudiate the decidedly anti-Republican policies that have been enacted by our leaders in our name.
And now my fellow Republicans, I leave you with this question: What are YOU prepared to do about it?