In late 1979, during an economic strategy meeting, Ronald Reagan was talking about his upcoming presidential campaign. At one point, somebody expressed concern that John Connally, the former governor of Texas and another presidential candidate, was gaining support among corporate chief executive officers, with all the financial support and credibility that that entailed. Reagan said this didn't bother him at all. "Let him have the Fortune 500," he said. "I want our campaign to stand for Main Street, not Wall Street. I want us to stand for the worker, the shopkeeper, the entrepreneur, and the small businessman." Reagan's instincts were right on the mark.
Which reminded me of a speech Reagan gave two years earlier at CPAC, when he addressed the topic of conservatives starting a third-party to compete with the liberal Rockefeller, country-club image the Republican Party had at that time.
The New Republican Party I envision will not be, and cannot, be one limited to the country club-big business image that, for reasons both fair and unfair, it is burdened with today. The New Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat and the millions of Americans who may never have thought of joining our party before, but whose interests coincide with those represented by principled Republicanism. If we are to attract more working men and women of this country, we will do so not by simply "making room" for them, but by making certain they have a say in what goes on in the party. The Democratic Party turned its back on the majority of social conservatives during the 1960s. The New Republican Party of the late ’70s and ’80s must welcome them, seek them out, enlist them, not only as rank-and-file members but as leaders and as candidates.
Sad to say that too many in the GOP are too willing to abandon Reagan's vision of a New Republican Party and retreat to the country-club, blue-blood image of Rockefeller and Nixon by circling the wagaons around Willard Romney. The only person of political stature who seems to get it is Sarah Palin.
So, would so many in the conservative media who are attacking Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry as being "anti-capitalist" or "thinking like Fidel Castro" say the same thing about Ronald Reagan?