Four years ago, the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention told us that America was a Tale of Two Cities – the have’s and the have-not’s, the rich and the poor, the upper class and the lower class. We heard a variation on that message from Jesse Jackson and Teddy Kennedy and every Democrat who spoke last month at their convention in Atlanta. Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to tell the truth. The message of the Democratic Party is a message of defeat, division and despair. They did not speak for the American people under McGovern or Mondale or Carter. And they do not speak for America today.
But that Tale of Two Cities was right in the way he never intended. That great novel by Charles Dickens begins with a double sentence. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” In 1980, Ronald Reagan and George Bush began a long journey to rescue this country from the worst of times – from double-digit inflation, soaring interest rates and widespread unemployment. As Republicans, our task in 1988 is to continue that journey and bring the greatness of America through moral strength.
Exactly two months and 22 days from tonight, some 100 million of our fellow citizens will go to their polling places to choose the future force of the United States of America. Our Tale of Two Cities is really a choice between two paths – two visions of America, two philosophies of the future.
When Charles Dickens wrote his epic novel, he described in heart-rending detail the consequences that the right and wrong choices made in two cities in Europe. In city number one, under the deceptive slogan, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” the people with revolutionary zeal threw out God, the Church, established morality, the established government, their former leaders, sound currency, and some of the private ownership of property.
Then they demanded that the new government buy them happiness. Instead of the government-inspired utopia which the people thought they would get, they got liberal divorce laws and a break-up of families, anarchy, looting, ruinous inflation and financial chaos. As the madness fed on itself, they got something much worse – the reign of terror, a time when no one’s life was safe from the dreaded guillotine.
The second city followed a very different course. Their faith in God was maintained. There was even a spiritual revival under John Wesley. Respect for the rule of law prevailed. Instead of wild excess, there was self-control and self-restraint. The currency was strong, and families were stable. Private property was protected, and life was held sacred. With all its faults, England created a strong, stable, conservative government that survived with prosperity for 100 years.
So these two cities made choices in 1789 that shaped their future for decades, for generations to come. Now, 200 years later, America faces its choice. The Democrats have given us a clear picture of their city. They offer unlimited government, massive transfers of wealth from the productive sector of society to the non-productive, and ever-increasing regulation of the daily lives of the people and their children. In the city of the Democratic Party, the liberal mindset reigns supreme. Criminals are turned loose and the innocent are made victims. Disease carriers are protected, and the healthy are placed at great risk.
In the Democratic city, welfare dependency flourishes, and no one is held accountable for his or her behavior. Society is always to blame. In the Democrat’s city, the rights of the majority must always take a back seat to the clamorous demands of special interest groups. And yet, in their city, it is always the majority that must pay the bills through higher and higher taxes.
Now the Democratic Party has discovered the family. They want us all in one big family. But let’s keep in mind that they want you and me to be in one family with Jim Wright as the daddy, Barbara Mikulski as the mama and Teddy Kennedy as big brother.
I can’t speak for you, but I believe I would rather pick my own relatives.
To build their city, the Democratic party has selected Michael Dukakis as architect. I submit to you tonight that Michael Dukakis is the most liberal candidate for the Presidency ever put forward by any major party in the history of the United States of America.
In fact, the city the Democrats hope to build is so bad that they are ashamed to mention the word that describes who they are and what they really want to do. They don’t say what it is; they just call it the “L” word. They know that their programs will require massive new revenues, but in their platform they did not mention once the vehicle they will use to raise the money. They just call it the “T” word.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, whether by silence, whether by initials, or whether in a foreign language, it’s still tax and spend liberalism, and the American people are too smart to fall for it again.
There’s another word that the Democrats did not mention in their platform and not once in the acceptance speech of their candidates. It’s a “G” word – the name of God. Ladies and gentlemen, our President Ronald Reagan was not ashamed to ask the assembled delegates at our convention in Detroit to bow their heads in silent prayer to God. As Americans we are not ashamed to pledge allegiance to a flag that is a symbol of one nation under God. And I submit to you that our party, the Republican party, assembled here in New Orleans is not ashamed to write into our national platform our solemn resolve that the children of this country will once again be allowed to pray to God in the classrooms of America.
And as an aside, I should mention that Michael Dukakis is a card-carrying member of the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]. As you know, that’s an organization dedicated to removing all public affirmation of religious faith in America. As President, Michael Dukakis will pack the federal courts with ACLU radicals. If there were no other reason, and there are many to deny Michael Dukakis the presidency, this is a reason enough for all of us to vote against him in November.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican party wants to write a tale of another city. We’re the children of those who tamed the wilderness, spanned a continent, and brought forth the greatest nation on the face of the earth. We’re the heirs of those who enriched the world with the electric lights, the telephone, the airplane, mass-produced automobiles, the transistor, and countless wonderful inventions, and yet, we’re the heirs of a more enduring legacy than mere material progress. We are the heirs of a legacy of ideas, a legacy of freedom, a legacy of equality, of opportunity, a legacy of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We’re the heirs of an experiment in freedom that has given hope and promise to all the people on the face of this earth. We see a city set on a hill, a shining light of freedom for all of the nations to see and admire, a city made great by the moral strength and self-reliance of her people, a city where husbands and wives love each other and families hold together, a city where every child, whether rich or poor, has available to him the very best education in the world. A city where the elderly live out their lives with respect and dignity and where the unborn child is safe in his mother’s womb.
A city where the plague of drugs is no more, and those who would destroy and debase our children with illegal drugs are given life sentences in prison with no chance for parole. A city where the streets are safe, where criminals are locked up and the law-abiding can walk about without fear. A city where the water is pure to drink, the air clean to breathe, and the citizens respect and care for the soil, the forests, and God’s other creatures who share with us the earth, the sky and the water. A city with limited government, but unlimited opportunity for every one of its citizens.
We are Republicans – and we believe in government that is our servant and not our master. We believe that the wisdom of the millions who make up the marketplace is greater than the wisdom of the few who serve in government. We want a balanced budget. But we feel that the way to balance the budget is to stop waste and mismanagement in government, not to raise the taxes on the people. There’s a word to describe us. It’s a “C” word. We are conservatives, and we are proud of it.
In November, the voters will choose their version of a tale of two cities. Some people say they don’t care what choice the voters make in November. That it doesn’t really matter. I say to you tonight we care because it does matter. It matters to us and our children whether we vote Democrat or whether we vote Republican. And we care whether the successor to a great President, Ronald Reagan, is a liberal who returns us to the failed policies of Jimmy Carter or a principled conservative like George Bush, who moves us proudly into the 1990s.
Etched in my mind is the memory of a 40 year-old black man. He was strong. He was honest. He was hard working. He was handsome. He was a family man with a wife and a couple of children. He was building a place for himself and his family when one day tragedy struck him. You see, he couldn’t read and write. He had been running a loading dock for a fertilizer distributor. He got along by memorizing the colors of the products that he handled until the company changed the labels. And he made so many mistakes that they had to let him go.
His life is now in shambles. His pride is gone. His hopes and dreams are gone. He is one more on the welfare roles. His is one of the 30 million functional illiterates in America who have been short-changed by our educational establishment. Ladies and gentlemen, George Bush wants to be known as the education President.
Together, we can make our schools the best in the world if we follow a few simple steps. We must guarantee to our children, a disciplined, crime-free, drug-free school environment. Top school principles should be made community heroes, not community scapegoats. We must recognize that the so-called New Age curriculum of progressive education is a colossal failure and must be replaced.
We must place control of education in the hands of parents and teachers in the local communities, and take it away from Washington, the federal courts and the liberal leadership of a powerful teachers’ union. We must give to every parent the maximum freedom to decide what school is best for his or her child. Empowering parents with vouchers and educational choice at the local level is an idea whose time has come.
Some would say we can never have better education without stronger families. In part, they are right. In my opinion, the break-up of the American family is the number one social problem in America today. Half of our marriages end in divorce. Over 15 million children now live with a single parent. Single women with children are the fastest-growing segment of the poor in our land. We speak of the “feminization of poverty.”
What has government done about the problem? Successive Democratic congresses have raised the tax burden on parents with children an estimated 245 percent over a 20-year period. In one year, federal taxpayers’ money was used to institute an estimated 225,000 divorce actions. It has been estimated that 30 percent of all divorces in America are caused by misguided welfare laws. More cruel than all this is the assumption begun by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Programs that the poor did not have to strive to learn to compete and to excel. This attitude fostered dependency, then hopelessness, then despair. Ladies and gentlemen, we are Republicans, and we believe some basic truths here tonight:
- Number one, government must seek to strengthen families, not tear them apart.
- Number two, parents are responsible for their own children. If a man fathers a child, that child is not the responsibility of the city, the state, or the federal government. That child is the father’s responsibility, and he and the child’s mother should be made to look after the child.
- Number three, women in our society should have complete access to challenging and rewarding careers. If women in our society do the same work as men, they should receive the same pay as men for that equal work.
- Number four, we also need to stop punishing women in our society who choose to be homemakers. If in our society we can afford to give tax deductions and credits to working parents with children, we also can afford to give tax deductions and credits to women who want to stay at home and care for their children.
- Number five, the goal of welfare must be to restore people in crisis to dignity and useful employment, not to create a class of government dependents for whom welfare is a way of life.
Whatever the Democrats may tell you, their way is not the way to keep hope alive.
But ladies and gentlemen, hope is very much alive in America today. It is alive because our vision, the Republican vision, expresses the hopes and the dreams of the vast majority of the American people. As we leave New Orleans, we will go back to our homes confident that we are a party united around the platform that expresses the American spirit. A platform we can be proud to share with our neighbors all over this great nation.