“I’ve always kept a strict distance between myself and the Republican Party,” writes Hoover Research Fellow Peter Robinson, whose professional resume, which includes a five-year stint as a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, would easily qualify him for a starting position on a team of Republican All-Stars. “The distance has existed only in my mind, I grant you. But it has been no less real for that.”
The irony of this is not lost on Robinson. Tuning this dissonant chord forms the crux of his new book, It’s My Party: A Republican’s Messy Love Affair with the GOP. His attempt at reconciling his political ideals and personal beliefs with his loyalty to an evolving Republican Party has resulted in a book that is at once a penetrating and humorous look at Republicans and the GOP today.
Armed with a quick primer on the origins and history of the GOP, Robinson undertook a cross-country journey, interviewing as many Republicans from around the nation as he could lay his hands on. He talks with such Republican notables as Governor George W. Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Reps. Henry Hyde and Christopher Cox, former California Governor Pete Wilson and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his search to define what it means to be a Republican.
What he finds confirms his hopes in the party—and his frustrations with it. But it is the inspiration he draws from the Republicans he meets, in all walks of life, that shines in this short book. In his search, Robinson finds a core set of values at the heart of every Republican, binding them, along with himself, to one another and to the party.
“Nearly every person with whom I spoke was able to articulate reasons for being a Republican. A belief in individual responsibility. The conviction that any government that absorbs a full one-fifth of the goods and services its citizens produce is too big and too intrusive. The desire to see American military might remain unassailable, even in the post–Cold War world. An eagerness to bring market forces to bear on social problems, introducing voucher programs, for example, to improve our schools, or replacing welfare with workfare.”
What begins as a rude awakening for Robinson at the outset of his journey—“Whatever the distance from the GOP that I may have cultivated in my own mind over the years, it was nothing anybody else would ever have been able to detect.”—eventually becomes a passionate reaffirmation of the GOP and his loyalty to it.
In looking ahead to the 2000 elections, Robinson writes, “The GOP may yet go into retreat. Lord knows it has experience at losing. But for now it looks as though the GOP’s principles of self-reliance, limited government, and respect for the Judeo-Christian moral tradition have invested it with continuing appeal.”
Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits Hoover’s quarterly journal Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover’s television program Uncommon Knowledge. Robinson is also the author of the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA (Warner Books, 1994).
Robinson spent six years in the White House, serving from 1982 to 1983 as chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush and from 1983 to 1