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Speech
California Republican Party Convention
Alan Keyes
February 27, 1999
Sacramento, California

Address to the County Chairman Breakfast

Note: The February California Republican Party Convention was almost entirely dominated by the well-funded and aggressive effort of a pro-abortion minority to remove the pro-life plank from the state party platform and elect pro-abortion Republicans to leadership positions in the state party--efforts that Ambassador Keyes refers to in the speech and which were, in the event, soundly defeated.

I had been wont to begin my speeches in the course of the last several months with a statement that I regarded as unequivocal truth. It's always nice to start out with something true. So I was starting out my speeches by telling folks that Bill Clinton is a liar. And that is certainly an unequivocal truth.

Unhappily, now we are in a situation where I would have to consider changing that, wouldn't I? Because we know he is a liar, but the question of the day is whether Bill Clinton is a rapist.

I guess there are some people who would rather I didn't mention that question, because it does illustrate--doesn't it?--just how far we have sunk. We would like to believe, wouldn't we, that we are in great shape right now. But we aren't, really.

We are in the midst of a delusion. If we wake up in time, we will save the country. If we don't, we will lose everything we hold dear.

And the epitome of that truth is sitting in the White House right now. A lot of people want to turn their backs on it and be indifferent to it. But when the people of this country have reached a point where we have to ask ourselves, quite seriously, whether the President of the United States is guilty of the most abusive crime of violence against women there is, and we don't even have the courage to ask it, much less seek the answer, you've got to know there is something wrong.

But I want to make it clear that this is not just a question about Bill Clinton. Over the last several months we have had to ask a lot of serious questions, based on all this polling and other garbage, about something more important than what Bill Clinton is like. And that is the question of what we, the American people, are like. We have more and more folks having to search their souls, wondering about the American people.

I want to spend a minute today trying to show forth a little bit why I believe that question mark that lies behind the character of the American people . . . we may think that is a question mark that arises incidentally to Bill Clinton's presidency. But it is a actually a question that is part of the political strategy and agenda of those who oppose us--by means of which they have and will defeat us on every front, if we are not successful at erasing that question mark behind the character of our people.

You will hear, in the course of this convention and in the course of campaigns, many people who parade before you and present to you some standard elements, now, of the Republican agenda. The things that we always refer to as "those are the things that we all agree about."

There are some people, probably some of you sitting in this room, who think that is all we should talk about. And that these other things, that should remain unmentionable at the moment, we can put them somewhere else and we won't talk about them, because of the "things we agree on."

What are the things we agree on? I can tell you. One simple principle--one absolutely clear principle--runs through every part of the agenda that "the Republican Party agrees on," as people say. And it can be stated very easily. We believe in the people's ability and capacity to govern themselves. They believe only in the power of government. It is that simple. And that contrast is clear on every issue.

On the Social Security issue, we stand forward and we say we have got to respect the capacity of people to make the right judgments about how to use their own money to provide for their retirement. We've got to trust the people of America.

And what do they say? Bill Clinton comes forward and tries to pretend that he is going to do some of the same things. There's only one problem. He doesn't trust the people to decide how to use the money; he wants the government to do it. It is the same thing that contrasts us on every issue.

We stand forward and we say that we need to take the surplus, so-called, that is there--the first thing that we ought to do with that surplus, by the way, is to keep our promises.

I can't mention it without going into that just a little bit, because I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I actually believe deeply in this surplus. The national surplus right now is a combination of the money we are actually taking now out of the Social Security Trust Fund, and the money that we ought to be using to repay what we have already taken out of the Social Security Trust Fund. So let's not talk as if that surplus has any more reality than our increase in the Social Security Trust Fund tax gave it.

But while we are talking about it, we have people like Bill Clinton stepping forward and saying, "We are in this era of surplus, and we could use these surpluses to give people tax cuts, and then y'all could decide what to do with the money. But let me tell you why that would be wrong. . . ."

And it turns out that the reason that would be wrong [he thinks] is because people wouldn't do the right thing with the money. "We need to take care of the elderly with Social Security; we need to take care of the poor with government programs; we need to take care of education. . . ." And the people of this country, he believes, can't be trusted to make the right decisions as to what to do with their own money. They won't use it the right way.

Isn't it funny? It's that same contrast there again, isn't it, between the Republicans, who believe in the people of this country, and in their capacity to do what is right, and the Democrats, who believe in the power of government and don't trust the people of this country to do what is right.

The same thing is true on education. We come forward and, over the course of time, have developed a clear, principled agenda on education based on one thing that is crystal clear across the board--we should not allow our educational system to be dominated by politicians and educrats and bureaucrats; we should turn control of that system back over to the parents, who have the responsibility before God for their children. That's what we believe!

There again, as in every other element of our agenda: we trust the people; they trust the government. And no matter how you parse it, that is what it boils down to.

But here's the problem. And I lay this before you . . . every time you hear somebody--and you'll hear it a lot, probably have heard it a lot already--talking about how we should emphasize things we agree on and leave out those things don't, I want you to think seriously about the following inescapable reasoning. And I want you to concentrate on the reasoning here, because without it you won't understand what is going to happen or what needs to be done.

We trust the people. They trust only the power of government. But tell me something. What if their argument that people won't do the right thing is true?

What if it is true?

What if it is true that, by and large, the people of this country are so depraved that parents won't meet their responsibilities to their children, won't care about their welfare, won't put their children's interests first, but instead will use and abuse them as objects of their convenience, as objects of their passion and their will? What if that is true?

Could we trust the people then?

And what if the people of this country, if you give them back the money in tax cuts, what if they won't care about their neighbor? What if they will let the children starve in the streets? What if they will let poverty overtake the glories of this country, until it sickens us?

Would you trust the people then?

And what if it is true that folks will be so profligate and so uncaring that they won't have the sense of responsibility to set aside for their future, and make the right judgments about their retirement?

Would our way work then?

See, what we are forgetting here is that you can't come forward and say, "We trust the people! They trust the government!" and then turn your back on the question mark that they have placed behind the character and capacity and judgment of this people when it comes to doing what is right.

We have deluded ourselves into believing that these folks are in love with Bill Clinton in spite of his vices. That is not true. They love Bill Clinton BECAUSE of his vices. They love Bill Clinton because he is the poster boy of American moral depravity. They love Bill Clinton because every American who identifies with Bill Clinton identifies with someone who can't control his passions, no matter what is at stake; who can't keep his promises, no matter what is at stake; who won't respect his duties and obligations, no matter what is at stake.

If that is the kind of people that we have become, then every last policy the Republican Party proposes is WRONG, because we cannot trust such a people with their liberty. We cannot trust such a people to do what is right.

That is why [we keep losing the political battle]. In case you haven't noticed, we come forward and make the best arguments, we have the best facts and figures, we have the best economic arguments, we have the best empirical arguments, the studies show that our way will work better when it comes to producing quality results in education, and that we will get two and three times the amount of effectiveness for every dollar we spend on education if we follow the path of choice, if we follow the path of respecting parental authority, if we turn communities and schools back over to their people, instead of the government.

We know it works. So why don't we win the battle?

We know that people will get a better return on their money if they are allowed to invest it in things that bring a larger return, rather than investing it in the phony promises of government, in the patronage system of politicians. We know it will work better, and give them a more secure retirement future.

How come we just don't win the argument?

We know that the path to this country's economic prosperity and strength, as proven every single day since the Reagan-era tax cuts started to take effect, is that you give the money back to the people of this country and they make the miracle happen--not their politicians and not their government.

The facts prove that we are right. Why don't we win the argument?

I'll tell you why. It is very simple. It is because we make all those empirical arguments, economic arguments, and so forth, and then they come forward and trump us every time with this moral argument.

"This is all well and good, but the people of this country can't be trusted. They won't do what is right. They won't make the right decisions. They don't have the moral capacity to do the right thing." And then they accuse us of being callous.

Why are we accused of being callous and insensitive? I'll tell you why; it is very simple. If that argument is true, and we then argue that we want to turn the welfare system over to people who don't care and won't do what is right, that means that we don't care about the poor, because we are willing to turn people over to a system that will leave them exposed to that selfishness and that lack of moral decency.

And when we come forward and say that we want to turn the schools over to the parents, and they say, "But these parents are abusive, and these parents don't care about their children"--if that argument is true, then we ARE callous; then we are insensitive; then we don't care. Because, if you turn the future of our children over to people who don't have the moral capacity to do what is right, they will suffer, they will not prosper.

In every respect, if we lose the moral argument, we will lose every other argument. If we cannot erase the question mark behind the character of the American people, we will not win any of the other questions that face the American people.

When are we going to wake up and see this? When are we going to stop acting as if we can simply turn our back on the truth? There can be no self-government without self-discipline. There can be no self-government without self-control. There can be no liberty unless it is grounded in moral discipline and the ability to do what is right.

So when folks stand before you and say, "We want to unite the Republican Party. . . ."

I would love to see a united Republican Party. But I want to see something else, too. I want to see a united America. I want to see an America where we stand together as a people, remembering that we are not just blacks, and Christians, and Jewish folks, and whites, and this group and that group, and women, and all of this. I want to see us remember that we have a common, a shared, moral identity that goes beyond the color of our skin, that goes beyond our ethnic background, that goes beyond any differences of opinion we may have on the rituals and sacrifices of our religious life.

But how is this supposed to happen if we are not willing to stand firm and forthright on the only ground that has proven to be common ground of American life? The solid ground on which, as a people, we can claim one identity?

There will be those who will come before you trying to claim that that has something to do with our economic success, and something to do with our success at building policies where they, the government, take care of us so well. This is a lie.

The common ground that has forged our identity was there when the economic times were bad. It was there when the policies produced disaster. It was there when the American people had to face the tough circumstances that in other countries led to tyranny and fascism and nazism, but in our country led us simply to hold more firmly to our liberty.

And what made the difference in all those times was not some common ground of Social Security policy, or tax policy, or economic policy. It was the common ground of our belief in those moral ideas that were set down when this country began, and have, over the decades, stirred the heart and the effort and won the allegiance of people from around the world--people who came here new: as Italians, as Nigerians, as Chinese, and who ended up, because their heart loved those principles, all of them Americans.

And what do they say? "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Abstract words? No!

For those words our young men and women have risked their lives, and given their lives. On those words we have built a system that offers hope and opportunity to people whoever they are, wherever they come from.

But if we are to sustain them, we've got to remember that you can't turn your back on the fundamental truths that are stated there. And the fundamental truth is, first and foremost, that there IS a fundamental truth. That there is a difference between truth and falsehood.

And the fundamental truth is that the bedrock ground on which THAT truth stands is not the will of the mother, not the will of the father, not the will of the Constitution, not the will of the President--but the will of our Creator, God, who gave us our rights and established the foundation of our justice.

That is not a Christian idea, only. And that is not a Catholic idea, only. That is an American idea. And if we turn our backs on it--in any place, in any way--we will destroy the soul of America.

And that is the battle that is at stake now. It is the battle that you will fight here, at this convention, when people stand forward and say that "we can look at these things we agree on, and forget those things that divide us."

So we are divided now, are we, in our belief that every human being has God-given rights that must be respected by every human power whatsoever? We are divided?

No! We are UNITED by that belief, or we are united by no other!

And if that is true, then I'll have to tell you . . . we will have a lot of words of unity spoken, and I think that all words of unity have a good intention. But when shall we remember that in this party we revere, just as an example, that great President, Abraham Lincoln? (Of course, our Republican leaders didn't revere him enough to make sure that we didn't sully his memory with that abominable impeachment vote, but I will leave that aside.) We revere Abraham Lincoln. Does anybody remember that Abraham Lincoln was the man who, at the end of the day, thought it necessary to risk the bloody division of America rather than sacrifice those true principles and ideas which he knew to be the only basis on which we could be united?

The people who are telling you now that you back away from the party's commitment to those moral ideas which have shaped our heart as a party since first we stood against those morally-indifferent Democrats and Whigs who didn't care that people were being enslaved, they are telling you a lie.

For, if we back away from those principles, if you back away from the pro-life plank that embodies those principles, if you back away from the party's commitment to the moral ideas that are stated in that great Declaration, then there will be no ground for unity in this party. There will be no ground for unity in America. There will be no hope for that unity which we represent for the human race.

So I would say . . . I would plead with you today. And I have to tell you, there are some folks--I shouldn't be talking out of school here but, you know, when you are involved in an effort that has some kind of political overtones, all kinds of discussions take place. I want to report this one, just briefly. Because, when I was offered the opportunity to speak at this breakfast, there were some folks who thought that maybe I shouldn't come because other people whom they thought were being considered for this or that were going to speak to the general meeting, and they would have greater impact, and I was being slighted somehow, and all of this. And I looked over what this breakfast was about, and I said to myself, "Somebody must be crazy. They are having a breakfast to honor the county chairmen of the Republican Party and somebody thinks that is a dishonor to me?"

I want to tell you something. I think that it is a great honor to be here before those who represent the true grassroots heart of the California party. But I want to challenge that heart. I want to tell you that if you don't commit that heart unequivocally to the great principles on which this nation stands, then you will HELP Bill Clinton to toss this country down the toilet of history.

You have got to stand for those things that we have believed in! And though they look, for the moment, as if there are people in the country backing away--and we don't have this, and we will lose that, and so forth--don't fool yourself.

I believe that the decent heart of America is not dead. I believe that the decent conscience of America is not dead. And by the way, as Republicans we've got to believe it, because if that decent heart is dead then every policy we represent is wrong. We have got to stand unequivocally in the faith that the American people still subscribe to those great moral principles which must discipline our rights, which enrich our freedom with the truths of justice and decency. I believe that heart has not abandoned those truths.

And I plead with you. In the name of our country's unity. In the name of our country's hope. Do all that you can at this convention to make sure that this party does not abandon that decent heart, that decent dream of justice, which is, in the end, what we are as a people, what we offer to the world, what we have as the greatest gift of Providence for this nation's strength and future.

Stand firm in it, and give us the hope that we can keep this nation where it belongs: on the strong path of moral truth that, in the end, shall lead not only to our unity as a people, but to our victory for that idea of unity and wholeness and hope for humanity that as a people we represent to our future, and to the world.

God bless you.
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