Republicans reach political fork in the road

Establishment Republicans are using the GOP's election losses as an excuse to declare conservatism dead. But it wasn't conservatism that was rejected by the people, it was Republicans who rejected conservatism who were rejected.

Last week, Nevada state Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, declared that Republicans have to run moderate candidates who can attract Democrat voters if they ever want to win again. You know, like moderate John McCain (lost), moderate Rep. Jon Porter (lost) and moderate state Sen. Joe Heck (lost). Great strategy, Senator.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, declared that the Republican Party has "gone too far to the right." The moderate Republican added that the "far right message does not sell." Really?

Conservative Nevada Rep. Dean Heller " who, unlike moderate Jon Porter, voted against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout " won handily. And at least six ballot measures to raise taxes were crushed by Nevada voters last week. So it's not that the conservative message won't sell, it's that too many Republicans aren't selling it. Instead, they're selling us Democrat Lite.

Many of you will remember Lyn Nofziger. He was a close adviser to Ronald Reagan dating back to his days as governor of California. And without question, Lyn would be considered "too far right" by establishment Republicans today. Here's how Lyn defined what it meant to be a conservative.

"Allowing for differences I would define a conservative, first as one who believes in the Constitution as it is written. That takes care of free speech, freedom of religion, the right to petition the government, the right to keep and bear arms and, in the words of William O. Douglas in one of his saner moments, 'the right to be let alone.'

"Second, a conservative believes in small, limited government at every level. Along with this he believes strongly in individual responsibility. That is, a person or a family should take care of itself and turn for help to government only when all other means have been exhausted. It also means that society, before government, has a duty to take care of its own. Government should be a resource of last resort.

"Third, a conservative believes taxes should be levied for the purpose of financing the limited responsibilities of government such as providing for the common defense, catching and incarcerating criminals, minting money and filling potholes. Taxes should not be levied for the purpose of redistributing wealth.

"That's about it. I know there are those who say a conservative should be pro-life, which I am, but I'm not sure a person has to be that to qualify as a conservative. Nor am I sure that a person must be opposed to pornography, which I am. In both cases there are questions of individual rights and responsibilities which are arguable.

"One other thing I think a conservative believes is that the parents, not government, are and should be responsible for the upbringing and behavior of their children."

Now you tell me voters won't "buy" that message. If Republicans would only run on that common-sense, all-American conservative platform " and then govern like they meant it once in office " not only would it "sell," but our state and the country would better off for it.

Or Republicans can take Sen. Hardy's and Sen. Raggio's advice and water down their philosophical beliefs just to get elected. But riddle me this, Batman: Why should voters vote for a Republican who's only going grow government a little slower than the Democrats and raise taxes a little less than the Democrats? I mean, if you're going to hell in a hand basket, wouldn't you prefer to get the ride over with as quickly as possible?

Nevada Republicans have come to that proverbial fork in the road. It's gut-check time. Will they veer off to the left with Sen. Hardy and Sen. Raggio, or will they bear to the common-sense right with Lyn Nofziger and Dean Heller? Decisions, decisions.

- Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit You can e-mail him at


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