“You’re a Republican?!” gasped a fellow classmate as she heard my mutterings during a professor’s lecture. I responded politely, “I’m a conservative.” Confused, she repeated the initial question, and I fell back to my original response: “I’m a conservative.” Conservative principles, such as the concepts of liberty, private property and personal responsibility, were once accepted by Americans of all party affiliations. Following the New Deal, however, these timeless founding principles that fashioned the success of our nation have been under constant assault. Democratic leaders have abandoned them entirely, leaving only a minority of republicans capable of defending them for the sake of their constituents. California’s budget crisis is a recent example of how a grasp on traditional American values has vanished among the political elite.
California was not always dominated by leftist politics. Once the home of Ronald Reagan, the Golden State enjoyed great wealth generated by powerful industries, fruitful heartlands and a productive people free from governmental constraints to pursue their dreams and ambitions. Today, California is billions of dollars in debt, defiantly refuses energy expansion through native oil and natural gas reserves and has completely shut off the water supply to parts of the Central Valley in an effort to save the tiny Delta smelt fish, leaving countless farms fallow and thousands unemployed, and controls every dimension of our life.
The current crisis, however, began when state spending doubled from $70 billion in 1998 to $145 billion in 2008, increasing by almost 40 percent under California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. When faced with a tremendous budget shortfall, Democrats refused to cut any government spending, while republicans resisted tax hikes, correctly noting that taxing during a recession would retard economic growth and thus yield lower government revenue. With Republicans devoid of leadership in Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration, the impasse was never overcome, and California was forced to issue thousands of IOUs, cut funds to education and release prisoners onto the streets. Our crisis was caused by reckless government policy, and it was completely avoidable.
Yet after such a colossal failure of government, rather than offering to cut spending, taxes and regulations to allow individuals the chance to recover from a national recession, Sacramento politicians remain blind to the blood that stains their own hands. Democrats would rather cut education than clash with unions over firing useless government employees, and our Republican governor, rather than standing for limited government, begged the federal government for a rescue in order to sustain his irresponsible economic policies.
Only a resurgence of conservatism can save our state from its government, as we can no longer simply expect our politicians to naturally defend our liberty. Democrats have a clear track record of controlling and destroying productivity, in spite of any economic hardship, and Republicans, such as the Governator himself, are caving to immense pressure from leftist media and special interests. The chance to rescue California’s future is not yet lost, but it will depend on an active citizenry, bolstered by a new generation of young voters loyal to the principles of our founding, to elect conservatives to positions of leadership. We must unite under a banner of freedom, ridding ourselves of blinding party prejudices, and demand of our government once more: leave us alone.