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    Senator Orrin G. Hatch

    Remarks at the Reagan Ranch

    Constitutional Conservatism and the Senate GOP Agenda

    October 8, 2014

    Introduction and Overview

    Im honored to be here today. Ronald Reagan was a great hero of mine. His influence looms

    large over both our nation and my own personal political life. In 1976 I was locked in a tight primary

    race in my first Senate campaign. The polls were close, and it was anyones race. A few days before

    the primary, Governor Reagan endorsed me. Im told it was his only pre-primary endorsement ever.

    Ive always been grateful for his support in that race. In my Senate office, we have a Reagan

    conference room, which displays the telegram formalizing his endorsement, as well as memorabilia

    from several of my bills that he signed into law as President.

    President Reagan made tremendous contributions to American conservatism. He implemented

    a conservative agenda that led to a renewal of American greatness, helped create millions of new jobs,

    and defeated an evil empire. He showed that conservatism is a winning philosophy.

    President Reagan also recognized the signal importance of the U.S. Constitution. Time and

    again he returned to the Constitution as the basis of our government and the source of our guiding

    principles. He referred to the Constitution constantly in advancing his conservative agendaan

    average of 16 times in each State of the Union speech. In his First Inaugural address he made the

    Constitutions opening words a key focus, emphasizing that governments role is to serve We the

    People, and not the other way around. He returned to this theme in his farewell address, in words

    worth quoting here: Almost all the worlds constitutions are documents in which governments tell the

    people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which We the People tell the

    government what it is allowed to do. We the People are free.

    My goal today is to explain how a conservatism rooted in the Constitutions enduring

    principleswhat some call constitutional conservatismprovides a framework for practical solutions

    to many of our most pressing challenges. I believe such an approach can serve as a foundation for

    successful Republican governance in the next Congress and beyond, just as it did under President


    Were at a critical point right now. The flaws in President Obamas agenda are increasingly

    clear. The economy remains sluggish nearly six years into his presidency. Millions of Americans are

    still unemployed or underemployed; millions more have given up looking for work altogether. The

    Presidents signature achievement, Obamacare, has caused premiums to spike and kicked millions of

    Americans off their health plans. Our national debt continues to grow. At home and abroad, our

    nation appears adrift. Equally important, it feels adrift.

    Now is the time for Republicans to tell America how we will right the ship, how we will solve

    the problems Obama has wrought. We have an opportunity to present a positive, conservative, reform-

    oriented agenda that will show the American people that we are the party of solutions, the party that

    can bring our nation out of its current malaise and restore it to growth and prestige and prosperity.

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    The Current Challenge

    Even in the face of such opportunity, this is a time of significant challenge for conservatives.

    Many commentators, across the political spectrum, have identified what they describe as a Republican

    identity crisis. Republican voters and elected officials, the narrative goes, are angered at the

    Presidents overreach and opposed to his agenda, but have offered few constructive policy proposals of

    their own. According to these commentators, todays Republican party knows what it is againstthe

    Obama agendabut is unable to articulate what it is for.

    A related narrative suggests that there is an ongoing GOP civil war, a political fight, not only

    between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment, but between competing ideologies. Between

    libertarians and social conservatives, populists and elites, hawks and isolationists. Even among those

    on the right who are seeking to identify an affirmative policy agenda, there is a sense that todays GOP

    lacks a unified governing philosophy.

    Our challenge as conservatives, then, is to develop a positive, reform-minded agenda that will

    both unify our party and present a compelling vision to voters searching for a way out of our current


    This is not a new challenge. Because conservatism includes a diverse set of ideological

    commitments, the GOPs successes over the last 50 years have all included a similar effort.

    Beginning in the 1960s, Frank Meyer, who for many years was an editor of National Review,

    undertook to unite the two often disparate wings of conservatismtraditionalist and libertarianby

    showing how each needs the other.

    Ronald Reagan was among the most ardent advocates of this view, known as fusionism. In a

    1981 address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Reagan lauded Meyers effort

    to fashion[] a vigorous new synthesis of traditional and libertarian thoughta synthesis that is today

    recognized by many as modern conservatism.

    The effort to reconcile liberty and tradition was manifest in many of President Reagans

    programs and much of his rhetoric. He taught that it is not the state, but rather families, churches,

    neighborhoods, and communities that foster the virtues liberty needs to survive. For President Reagan,

    liberty and tradition were not competitors, but complements. Each needed the other to thrive. This

    remains true today.

    Our current challenge, however, is not merely to unify. We must also present a compelling

    vision. It is not enough simply to offer a set of policy proposals. We must root our agenda in

    principles, and explain to the American people why those principlesand the policies that flow from

    themoffer the best way forward.

    Constitutional Conservatism

    The fundamental insight of conservatism lies in the root of the word: conserve. To be a

    conservative means to appreciate that our established institutions and inherited traditions reflect the

    accumulated wisdom of those who have come before.

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    American conservatism thus contains an important protective element. It involves a

    commitment to conserve the principles and institutions that have made our nation so great and so free.

    As conservatives, we recognize that the Constitution gave us a precious gifta system of government

    that is both active and restrained. That has the necessary authority to meet challenges, but contains

    within its interior structure checks on that same authority. That gives families and communities space

    to thrive, but is attuned to the imperfections of human nature.

    Our commitment to the Constitution leads us to resist programs or ideologies that would cast

    aside our constitutional principles in favor of novel theories or untested designs. In the 1950s,

    conservative heroes like Russell Kirk and Whitaker Chambers urged Americans to stand strong against

    Communism and other collectivist impulses, and to conserve our liberties by restoring traditional faith

    and morality. More libertarian-minded thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman argued

    passionately against the New Deal as a misguided reordering of the state and federal spheres, as well as

    an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. They urged a return to more limited government, and

    argued that reducing federal intrusion into the economy would free up space for individual liberty and

    innovation to flourish.

    Subsequent decades brought new challenges. In the 1970s we faced out-of-control inflation,

    punitive tax rates, and a Soviet menace. It took a committed conservative like Ronald Reagan to show

    America that we could return to greatness by returning to our founding principles of limited

    government, individual freedom, and strong defense.

    Today we face different threats, and fresh attempts to depart from our constitutional principles.

    An enormous expansion of the administrative state is now invading core individual liberties. Already

    the federal government has assumed authority to force Americans to purchase products they do not

    want; now it presumes to tell them they must violate deeply held religious beliefs. It continues to issue

    regulations that stifle our economy, impede innovation, and diminish individual freedom.

    As conservatives, we must continue to fight all of these attempts to expand government at the

    expense of our constitutional ideals. But we must not be defined only by what we are against. We

    must offer an alternative, affirmative agenda that can capture the publics attention and demonstrate

    that we are the party, not of shutdowns, but solutions.

    As we develop this agenda, we must take care always to keep the Constitution as our guide. By

    so doing, we remain true to the title conservative: we conserve our founding principles, and apply

    those principles to todays challenges.

    Restoring Political Constitutionalism

    Looking to the Constitution as our guide must be an active process, and one that each of us has

    an independent obligation to unde