Kelli Ann Cox, Publisher, The Golden Hammer
The life of late Congressman John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, is a perfect analogy to the failure of many Republicans; the life of this great man also raises the question why conservative Republicans are not natural allies of sincere believers in civil rights.
John Lewis was born to a poor family of sharecroppers in rural Alabama.
While attending Baptism seminary, he became involved in the civil rights movement, because he and his parents had a profound distrust of government and of institutions which worked to propagate governmental abuse. Only after he enjoyed considerable success as an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the civil rights movement did Lewis begin to nonprofit charitable organizations. Those institutions were a natural bridge to Lewis’ involvement in and eventual support of government agencies, such as ACTION, which idealistically sought to replicate the work of nonprofits but using tax dollars instead of voluntary contributions.
Not long after his involvement in ACTION did Lewis run for the Atlanta City Council and eventually for Congress, where he became a proponent for larger government and the enormous growth of government and its institutions. Lewis spent 34 years in Congress, eventually as a senior member of the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, fighting for bigger government and greater government intrusion into the lives of women and men.
That’s the irony. Lewis began his career as an opponent of government, because he rightfully mistrusted it. He ended his career as a proponent of the very same institutions which he mistrusted as a younger man.
Analogy to Republican politicians
Many Republican politicians first run for office with the ideology of Congressman Lewis. They at first run as idealistics who mistrust Big Government. Slowly, however, those institutions, which they have mistrusted, extend their tentacles into the minds of those idealists, who began to view politics as a means to serve themselves rather than as a means to protect individual liberty.
Look in local communities and local politics. Just as nonprofits began to corrupt the mind of Lewis, so do nonprofits, such as the Chamber of Commerce, begin to champion the very institutions which they form to combat. Rather than representing business interests, Chambers of Commerce seem to represent government institutions. Rather than seeking to build a community conducive to business growth, local chambers seek to build governmental growth to the direct detriment of private businesses and families.
Many local nonprofit groups help to turn the heads of local politicians, such as members of the Commissioners courts, away from representing the interests of individuals and families and in favor of the growth of Big Government.
The irony of what the Republican Party has overlooked
The great irony of John Lewis’ life – that he came to espouse the very government institutions which he, as a young man, so deeply mistrusted – raises the great error of conservative Republican activists, who also mistrust government and its institutions. Why are conservative Republicans not seeking a strong strategic and permanent alliance with African-American civil rights organizations, large groups of sincere individuals who also mistrust governmental institutions?
The failure of the conservative movement to recognize its natural allies likely explains the reason the conservative movement has stunted its own growth. Once conservatives begin to enjoy the trappings and institutions of power – as did Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party beginning in 1994 – conservatives lost their way and could no longer appeal to their natural base, proponents of American civil rights.