The advance text of Michael Steele’s speech to the RNC can be found below the fold.
A key message, I think: “We came to Washington to change it and in some ways we let Washington change us, and we owned up to that. We’ve taken some important steps to recover our values and our senses, and we can say we see the world with a clearer head and a sharper vision… The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done. The time for trying to fix or focus on the past has ended. The era of Republican navel gazing is over. We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt. Now is the hour to focus all of our energies on winning the future.”
Once again, welcome to Maryland. Welcome to Prince George’s County, Maryland. This is my birthplace, the place where I raised my family and the place of my first leadership position in the Republican Party. It was a tough job – and the pay wasn’t very good. Most of my time was spent walking neighborhoods, licking envelopes, and making phone calls for the County Republican Party.
You don’t know lonely until you announce: “Hi, I’m from the Prince George’s County Republican Party.” But, I learned a great deal; and it served as a foundation on my journey to becoming County Chairman, State Chairman and the first African American elected statewide. You are in the place where this incredible journey began; a place that is very special to me.
Many of you may know this story, so forgive me for re-telling it, but it speaks to who I am and why I am particularly honored that you have chosen me to serve as your chairman.
I was born about 20 minutes from here at Andrews Air Force Base and raised in our nation’s capital. I was adopted by my mother and father, a father who suffered from his addictions and his temper and who died when I was 4 years old.
So, my mother Maebell raised me on the salary of laundry worker, having earned no more than $3.83/hour on the day she retired. But, she had managed by her perseverance and the help of her new husband, John, to send me to parochial school, John Carroll High School, and the Johns Hopkins University. I would go on to attend Georgetown University Law School while my sister Monica would become the doctor in the family.
So, I think I know something about confronting the odds.
In 2002, I was approached by then-Congressman Bob Ehrlich to run with him as his Lt. Governor. It was an uphill battle. No Republican had won the governorship of Maryland since Spiro Agnew. More importantly, we ran against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Uncle Teddy’s little niece. We ran an unconventional campaign that wooed a number of Democrats to our side. We built coalitions and met with a diverse community of civic, religious and political leaders in their neighborhoods and places of worship.
On election night when the votes were counted, we made history becoming the first winning Republican ticket in 40 years and beating back the status quo thinking that it could not be done.
So, I know little something about winning against the odds.
I wanted to begin with that reflection to create the context for what comes next: Lessons learned; lessons that have shaped me as your chairman and that will shape us as a party.
We are at a crucial juncture for our party, and more importantly for our country. Simply put, America needs us now more than ever before. It’s time to rise to the occasion. It’s time to make our voices heard. It’s time to serve our country as the loyal opposition.
We all realize that the Democrats want us to be silent. They want to diminish our voice, and they even want to try to suggest that by being the loyal opposition we are in some way being less than patriotic. You’ve heard the suggestion that if we oppose the president’s policies we are in some crazy way rooting against American success.
But we also know nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, we would be abandoning our responsibility if we were to be silent while they spend our country into the abyss, while they borrow money we don’t have, and while they usher in the most massive expansion of federal government control in the history of our Republic.
Well, I’ve got news for them. We aren’t going to be silent. We are going to speak up, and we are going to show that we have the courage of our convictions. We will not be afraid to agree with the president when we believe he is doing what is best for America, but neither will we be afraid to disagree with the president when we believe his actions are hurting our country.
So, today I’m going to talk to you about some very important turning points for our party.
The first turning point is this: Today we are declaring an end to the era of Republicans looking backward.
We have just endured two successive elections where we were soundly defeated. As a result, many of us, me included, have done some soul searching. We have looked closely at the places we went wrong, we have talked openly and publicly about our mistakes and our deficiencies.
If you don’t learn from the past, you are of course destined to repeat it. This has been a difficult, yet healthy and necessary task for our party.
People are sick of politicians and political parties who never own up to their mistakes. We have done so. We lost our way on spending and we owned up to that. We came to Washington to change it and in some ways we let Washington change us, and we owned up to that. We’ve taken some important steps to recover our values and our senses, and we can say we see the world with a clearer head and a sharper vision.
The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done. The time for trying to fix or focus on the past has ended. The era of Republican navel gazing is over. We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt. Now is the hour to focus all of our energies on winning the future.
The Republican Party is again going to emerge as the party of new ideas. It will take some time, for sure, but it is beginning now. Our governors are emerging with fresh answers to old problems. Some of our brightest stars in Congress are emerging with new approaches. New groups and new entities are being formed. Republicans are rising once again with the energy, the focus, and the determination to turn our timeless principles into new solutions for the future.
The introspection is now over. The corner has been turned.
The second turning point for our party is this: We are going to take the president head-on. The honeymoon is over. The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback starts today.
The Democrats are in power. They wanted it and now we are going to make them own the results of their arrogance of power: Policies that are hurting the long-term health of our country. We are going to give voice to the growing chorus of Americans who realize that there is a difference between creating wealth and redistributing wealth. And we are not going to be shy about it. Simply put, we are going to speak truth to power.
There has been a great deal of talk in Republican circles about how we should deal with President Obama and the entire Obama phenomenon. Many have suggested that we need to be careful, that we need to tip-toe around President Obama, that we have to be careful not to take him on, at least not directly.
This has led to some handwringing among Republicans; and quite frankly some missed opportunities.
We’ve seen strategists writing memos and doing briefings urging that Republicans avoid confronting the President. Steer clear of any frontal assaults on his Administration, they warn.
They suggest that instead we should go after Nancy Pelosi, whom nobody likes.
Or Harry Reid, whom nobody knows.
Or this Tim Geithner fellow, whom nobody believes.
Or maybe even Barney Frank, whom nobody understands.
You know the thinking. In the same way that the Democrats target conservative talk show hosts and former vice presidents, we should also engage in some misdirection, just like they do.
The argument goes that we should be careful here, because the polls suggest that President Obama is popular.
Well, the president is personally popular. Pity the fool who paid for a poll to figure that out. Folks like him. He’s got an easy demeanor. He’s a great orator. His campaign was based on change and hope. He’s young. He’s cool. He’s hip. He’s got a good looking family. What’s not to like? He’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so, of course he is popular.
There’s only one problem. He’s taking us in the wrong direction and bankrupting our country. Were it not for that little detail, I’d be a big fan too.
This popular politician who is our president is engaged in the most massive expansion of the old industrial age model of government that our country has ever seen. This popular politician is spending America into debt of such mammoth proportions that none of us can even begin to calculate it or really understand it. The numbers are so big that they seem impossible.
If we have the courage of our convictions, and we do, then we will and we must stand against these disastrous policies, regardless of the president’s personal popularity. This is not a game, this is not a popularity contest, and this is not American Idol. This is the future of our country that is at stake.
The guy who campaigned in favor of bottom-up style of governing is presiding over the most massive top down expansion of government bureaucracy and spending our country has ever seen or even contemplated.
Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left.
Candidate Obama talked about fiscal responsibility, about government living within its means. But President Obama is saddling our unborn grandchildren with mountains of debt.
Candidate Obama boasted about cutting taxes, but President Obama will have to raise taxes to pay for his massive top-down government explosion.
Candidate Obama was all about being bipartisan, but President Obama could not be more partisan, yielding his legislative agenda almost entirely to radicals like Nancy Pelosi.
So…what’s the loyal opposition to do with this popular president? We are going to speak truth to power. We are going to speak directly, and we are going to take him on.
This is not about personalities. This is about the very sizeable gap emerging between America’s opinion of President Obama the man, and America’s opinion of President Obama’s policies. In fact, it’s not a gap, it’s a chasm.
In the end we are all about ideals, principles, policies, and ideas. We have only one goal, and it’s not power. It’s not majorities. It’s success for America.
The honeymoon is over. We are going to challenge those policies that we believe are wrong, and we are going to do so without apology and without a second thought.
But there is a very important distinction I want to make here.
We are going to take this president on with class. We are going to take this president on with dignity. This will be a very sharp and marked contrast to the shabby and classless way that the Democrats and the far left spoke of President Bush.
We’ve just seen a bunch of news stories on President Obama’s first 100 days in office. Predictably, most in the media were fawning all over the president.
But I wouldn’t break ground on the Mall for his monument just yet, as his policies are increasingly unpopular with the American people.
The American people aren’t worried about polls. The American people are worried about jobs, foreclosures, bailouts, taxes, spending, and debt. While the Obama Administration is giving the banks a stress test, they are also giving the American people a tremendous amount of stress.
Let’s look at the first 100 days of President Obama’s “reign of error” in a factual manner, not in terms of his speeches, but in terms of his actions:
• Under President Obama the federal government is now in the banking business.
• Under President Obama the government now makes cars.
• Under President Obama our country has amassed debts that will take generations to repay.
• Under President Obama America is increasingly in debt to foreign countries, from China to the Middle East.
• President Obama now wants to cap and tax every single American into paying higher utility rates.
• President Obama and his allies in Congress have now put their taxing eyes on soft drinks.
• President Obama and Democrat leaders want a brand new tax on our health care benefits and are devising a plan to give federal government bureaucrats control of our health care system.
• President Obama is backing a plan to take away the basic right of every American worker to cast a private ballot.
• President Obama has for the first time in our history politicized the US Census process by putting political appointees in his White House in charge of it and wanting a corrupt, fraudulent organization to run it.
• President Obama and his far left allies are flirting with an attempt to squelch the basic freedom of speech of our nation’s airwaves.
• President Obama’s Attorney General is trying to use Mexican drug gang wars as a reason to advocate a new gun ban in America.
• President Obama’s Administration has disparaged our war heroes and veterans by suggesting that they are a threat to our safety, when the truth is they are the cause of our safety.
• The president, who thinks that every student should be able to go to college, is cutting much needed funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
• The president, who pledged that he would create millions of jobs through federal public works projects, now requires project labor agreements on such projects which effectively denies small and minority owned businesses access to those jobs because they are not unionized.
• And the one the galls me the most: While the president sends his kids to a private school, he is at the very same time taking away opportunity scholarships from poor Hispanic and African-American kids right here in our nation’s capital.
Those are the facts of the president’s first 100 days.
The last Democrat President declared that the era of big government was over. Can some please send President Obama a copy of that memo! Because this new Democrat President has ushered in a new era of left wing, old school, top down, Industrial Age, bureaucratic Big Government the likes of which our country has never seen.
It is all designed for short-term political pay-off, with potentially catastrophic long-term effects on our nation’s economic prosperity.
Our nation’s unemployment rate has climbed to a 25 year high. The gross domestic product, the best indicator of our economic health, was down 6.1 percent in the last quarter.
Two and half million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone. Just last month, when 530,000 Americans lost their jobs, this Administration tried to spin this as progress.
Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama are planning an America where there are more people moving down the ladder of opportunity than moving up the ladder of opportunity. They are planning for an America that is more dependent, less industrious and less ambitious than our nation’s ideals.
That is not the kind of America Republicans envision.
As the next 100 days unfold, the president and the Democrat Party would be wise to remember these timeless truths:
“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.”
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”
“You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.”
“You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.”
“You cannot establish security by borrowing money.”
“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.”
“You cannot build character and courage by taking away one’s initiative and incentive.”
“You cannot help individuals permanently by doing for them what they should do for themselves.”
The honeymoon is over. It’s time to speak truth to power.
The third turning point is this: The Republican comeback has begun. It is underway, and it is not in Washington.
I may not know much, but I do know that our comeback is well underway in states all across America.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with all of you in five regional roundtables in each part of the country. We did those meetings behind the scenes, out of the public eye. That gave us a great opportunity to speak candidly with each other, a chance to review our strategies and tactics, a chance to learn from each other, and a chance to be very direct with each other.
I’ve also had the honor of speaking in 23 different states in the past 100 days. From Oregon to Idaho, from Wisconsin to Indiana, from Florida to Georgia, the energy among the grassroots is strong.
Too bad the chattering classes inside the Beltway are too busy fretting over phony disputes and intra-party intrigue to notice that a change has indeed come to America. But it’s not the one the Obama Administration wants aired on the nightly news.
Those of you who live outside of Washington know what I’m talking about. Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners, and county party events, those of you who toil in the vineyards, spending time in communities, in diners, in barber shops, and in coffee shops where real, every day people can be found. You know it is real. You can see it and feel it.
This change comes in a tea bag!
Our comeback will not begin in Washington. Our conversation with America will not focus on Washington. Our Republican National Committee will no longer rely on Washington. We will look to the rest of America instead.
Finally, let me conclude today by talking for a minute about where the Republican Party is headed.
For me the Republican Party owes its moorings to Edmund Burke, William F. Buckley, and Ronald Reagan. Those are the people that I trace my roots to in the Republican cause.
For each of them conservatism must always respect reality, effectively assess the times, and become relevant to them. Thus is our charge.
Ronald Reagan always insisted that our party must move aggressively to seize the moment. He insisted that our party recognize the truth of the times and establish our first principles in both word and deed.
As conservatives, we must stop acting like we don’t really believe in our principles. Too often, we act as if we are scared to apply our timeless principles to today’s problems and challenges.
Our path and our challenge are to apply our principles not to the past, but to the future.
In this hour conservatives stand just a bit stronger, just a bit wiser, ready once again to think and act with a freshness and a boldness that is uncompromising. For conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age. A Republican Renaissance has begun!
We will conquer the challenges not of the last century, but the challenges of our time. Our success will not be found in dusting off old campaign manuals from the 70’s and 80’s. Our success will be found in speaking directly to the American people about a rebirth of the American Dream for this generation and generations to come.
We have been and must be once again the voice of the majority of Americans. It is up to us to expose the great Democrat fraud that is now being thrust upon this nation. Personal freedom, liberty, and a desire for self-governing are the timeless values that Americans hold dear.
In our Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that there are certain inalienable rights, among them are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are not conferred upon us by the federal government, but by a power greater than any government.
The Democrats act as if the government is the provider of the very liberties we enjoy. No fashionable politician or president, no matter how popular, can give them to us nor will we allow them to take them from us.
We will stand up for countless Americans who worry about their bills, are defenseless in the face of foreclosures. We are with them, because we are them. Now is the time to organize ourselves and to demand the limited government and freedom we deserve.
Over the coming months Republicans will be bold in our approach. We will offer real solutions, and we will do so aggressively and without apology. We will focus on freedom and the freedom of the individual.
Odds, as I told you before, don’t scare me. I am used to working against the odds imposed on us by critics, pundits and the otherwise clueless class. I know how to develop a team, implement a plan and deliver a victory. I am confident in this journey because I am taking it with you. I gain strength in this journey, because I gain it from you. Our Renaissance has begun. Our opportunities lie before us, and our cause is as true today as when we first began in 1854.
So in the best spirit of President Reagan, it’s time to saddle up and ride.
Our country needs us.
Thank you and may God bless you all.