Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Man Who Can Save the GOP

A great post over at New Majority on how the life of former Congressman (and Oshkosh native) William Steiger can offer a blueprint for GOP success:

Steiger considered himself a conservative. He had started out in politics as a supporter of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, the anti-Communist crusader who divided the GOP as well as the nation. Over time, however, he came to believe that Republicans had to do more to respond to the real needs of most Americans, and that programs had to be judged on their efficacy rather than on ideological criteria. As a state legislator, he sponsored Wisconsin’s first open-housing law and provided summer schools for the children of migrant laborers. As a Congressman, he responded to the widespread youthful unrest of the late ‘60s by gathering a group of other young Republican members of the House and visiting college campuses, without fanfare, to talk with discontented undergraduates....

Steiger felt that Americans were better served by the Republicans’ emphasis on free enterprise and small, effective government than by the Democrats’ emphasis on welfarism and expanding bureaucracy. However, he also lived by Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that government was needed to accomplish the “desirable things which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do, for themselves.” Steiger sponsored the 1970 legislation that created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), though this was bitterly resented by many conservatives, because he believed that business and industry had failed to protect their workers; by the early ‘70s, some 14,000 Americans were killed annually in on-the-job accidents, another 400,000 succumbed to work-incurred illnesses, and over 2 million were injured. He insisted that OSHA was not created to harass employers but to save them money by ending the carnage.


Steiger’s sudden decease was widely mourned, not just on account of his youth but also because his career seemed to promise that politics could be improved. He was a solid party man, but worked to restructure the Republican convention delegate selection procedures to make the GOP more open, particularly to women and minorities and young people. He was skeptical of liberals’ grandiose claims for government, but never pretended that government was unnecessary, and he fought hard to get Republicans to modernize government at all levels and to enlist the brainpower of the academic community. He brought a certain youthful exuberance to even the unglamorous, everyday operations of public service, and his willingness to work with Democrats allowed him to amass a significant record of achievement. As the Washington Post editorialized, “His death was untimely, a blow to his party and a loss to civility and seriousness of purpose in the House.”

There are a lot of hardcore Democrats around these parts who will proudly say that the only Republican they ever voted for was Bill Steiger.

No comments: