Governor Hogan delivered remarks at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute on the future of the GOP and the country.
Well, thank you very much Roger for that much too kind introduction. Good morning everybody.
It really is an honor to be back here at the Reagan Foundation and Institute.
The first time I realized that I was a Reagan Republican, it got me in a little bit of trouble.
When I was a young college kid, I had the honor of being selected as Roger said as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City in 1976.
My father had served in Congress with Gerald Ford.
And actually played a pivotal role in Ford becoming president, and he was serving as a campaign chairman of the Ford campaign.
I admired President Ford. He was a good leader, and a decent and honorable man. But when it was Governor Reagan’s turn to address the convention, I was mesmerized.
Reagan seemed to connect with everyday people. And he channeled that connection toward a bold and optimistic vision for America.
An America everyone could be proud of. An America everyone was a part of.
So there I was enthusiastically marching on the convention floor with my Reagan hat and carrying my Reagan sign. When my Dad spotted me, let’s just say, he wasn’t completely thrilled.
But it was at that moment that I decided to become a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution. Of course, Jimmy Carter defeated President Ford and won the White House.
The aftermath of Watergate had seriously tarnished the Republican brand. Many wondered if the GOP could ever win national elections again. The New York Times declared the Republican Party “close to extinction.”
But then Reagan built a big tent coalition of Republicans, Independents, and Reagan Democrats, who wanted America to be that “shining city on a hill.” He worked hard to heal our party’s divisions, rather than exacerbate them, and to move us past the scandals and division.
He focused on the everyday concerns of working folks and struggling families – not the obsessions of the chattering class in Washington.
In 1980, just four years after the predicted demise of the GOP, Ronald Reagan led our party to one of the largest landslides in American history, and then went on to truly Make America Great Again.
After this divisive election, we again find ourselves at a crossroads for our party, and at a critical time, for our nation. As we search for a way forward, we should look back at how Ronald Reagan transformed our party and restored the greatness of America.
I believe what most Americans truly want regardless of their party affiliation is honest, effective leadership and results. They want common sense solutions to the serious problems that face us.
President Reagan certainly understood this. But it seems many in Washington have lost sight of that basic truth. Reagan was known as the great communicator because he understood the limits of rhetoric.
He wasn’t focused on scoring partisan points. He was focused on solving real problems affecting the lives of all Americans. And he knew that to be successful, it would take reaching across the aisle to find common ground.
President Reagan didn’t believe that compromise was a dirty word.
He knew “all-or-nothing” was a false choice. For his entire presidency, Democrats controlled at least one chamber of congress. Yet, President Reagan, one of our most conservative presidents, was also one of our most successful presidents.
He worked across party lines to pass the most conservative agenda in decades two rounds of tax cuts for the American people, shrinking the bloated federal bureaucracy, and a historic defense build up to defeat the Soviet Union.
Reagan said “there is no limit to what you can accomplish - if you don’t care who gets the credit.” The results spoke for themselves: decades of unparalleled economic growth, the Soviet Union consigned to the ashbin of history, and a renewed pride in our nation and our shared values.
Today, America faces a new set of 21st century challenges. Sadly, Washington insiders seem more concerned with winning arguments than actually advancing bipartisan solutions.
Neither side seems to want progress.
They just want to make demands and win arguments. That’s not leadership. That’s just political theater. And most of us are sick and tired of all the drama.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic collapse it has caused have shown this problem in stark relief for months. Struggling families and small businesses have been desperately in need of immediate relief, but instead of working until they reached a compromise Congress played politics and went on vacation.
Contrast that with America’s governors. When COVID-19 struck our shores, I was proud to be chair of the National Governors Association. We pulled governors from across the nation in a truly historic and bipartisan way.
Governors on both sides of the aisle stepped up on the front lines together. We understood that in times of crisis partisan politics must be put aside. The failure of Washington to effectively combat COVID and the failure to pass the current stimulus package are just the latest examples of the dysfunction in Washington.
Our nation’s infrastructure has been crumbling for decades.
The failure of Washington is made manifest in failing bridges, failing public health, failing schools, and an entire generation of Americans who are falling behind.
But in Washington, people on both sides refuse to give up even a little to get a lot done. Roads and bridges crumble while Democrats and Republicans insult each other on social media.
The cost of education and quality healthcare are out of control and out of reach for everyday Americans.
One party wants to impose radical solutions that would create more problems than they would solve.
And the other party, too often, offers no solutions at all. The result is a crumbling vision of the American dream. The average citizen is completely fed up with politics as usual. They think that Washington has been fiddling while America burns.
On the world stage, China threatens not just America’s economy. Our farmers, manufacturers, and innovators and our standing in the world. But also, the values we stand for: prosperity, liberty, and freedom.
Meanwhile, one party in Washington refuses to acknowledge the threat, while the other abandons the very allies we need to confront it.
And we never seem to find any common ground on any of these urgent issues. The solution according to the professional politicians in Washington is to give them more power.
More power in Washington won’t fix the divisiveness and dysfunction. It will only impose more dysfunction on more of our lives.
Faith, civic, and business leaders who are serving their communities. State and local governments that are working everyday to solve real problems.
We don’t need Washington to dictate.
We need Washington to get its act together.
We need Washington to make it easier – not harder for us to solve problems.
We need Washington to be a partner – not an impediment.
A large majority of Americans are thoroughly convinced that our political system is fundamentally broken that we as a people are tragically divided and that Washington is completely dysfunctional.
Most of us are sick and tired of angry and divisive politics.
Americans believe in civility and pragmatism.
They think straight talk is more valuable than empty rhetoric. These are things that my party is going to have to focus on if we expect to win national elections again.
Americans are not as divided as politics and social media would suggest. The problem is not the American people. The problem is that politicians think the only way to get elected is to feed the extremes to fire up the base.
And that the only way to govern is through winner-take-all combat. The extreme voices that dominate social media, cable news, and talk radio. Only represent a tiny sliver of Americans on the far left or the far right.
Over seventy percent of the rest of us belong to the “exhausted majority,” who are fed up with politics and who feel forgotten by both political parties and ignored by Washington.
Most Americans want the same thing.
They want humble, tolerant, respectful, and effective leaders, who will work together to find bipartisan, commonsense solutions.
They want us to appreciate that no one of us has all the answers or all the power.
They want a discourse that tolerates contrary views among a diverse citizenry without turning political adversaries into enemies or doubting their patriotism.
They want a government that protects the vulnerable without dictating how we live our lives.
They want a strong America that stands with its allies and for freedom in the world, but that doesn’t take for granted the sacrifices required for it.
They want to stand together with their neighbors and feel proud of their country once again.
These are the same Americans who Ronald Reagan spoke to.
His vision of America isn’t just a relic of some bygone era but an ideal that we can and we should once again aspire to.
Six years ago, I won the biggest surprise upset in America by committing to usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation and prosperity. One filled with hope and optimism.
When I took office, Maryland’s economic performance was 49th out of 50 states. Seventy percent of both houses of my legislature are progressive Democrats, but we cut taxes and regulations, and created the biggest economic turnaround in America.
Just imagine what we could’ve done with a Republican legislature.
While both parties in Washington argue about Obamacare, we worked across the aisle to pass innovative health care reform, reducing insurance rates for everyone by more than 30% while also covering hundreds of thousands more Marylanders.
While our nation’s infrastructure crumbles, we moved forward on all the top priority transportation projects in our state, including the largest P3 transit project in North America.
And moving forward on the largest P3 traffic relief project in the world.
While we’ve seen nothing but gridlock from inside the Capital Beltway, I was working with the Democratic governor of Virginia on an accord to fix the gridlock on the Capital Beltway.
As it turns out, common sense, bipartisan solutions are exactly what nearly everyone seems to want. In my deep blue state, more than 70% of every single demographic group approve of the job we have been doing.
I don’t say this to brag. I say it to dismiss the misguided notion that to get ahead you have to tear down the opposition. We have spent six years repudiating the debilitating politics practiced here in Washington.
Where insults substitute for debate, recrimination for negotiation, and gridlock for compromise.
Where the heat, finger pointing, and rancor suffocates the light and the only result is divisiveness and dysfunction.
What voters really want is for their leaders to actually focus on solving the problems we were elected to solve.
If we were able to accomplish that just down the road in deep-blue Maryland then there is no place in America where these very same principles cannot succeed.
Just as they did under the leadership of President Reagan. Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections and created a movement that endured for a generation because he understood the simple truth that successful politics is about addition and multiplication – not subtraction and division.
it’s one thing to win a presidential election, but quite another to build a broad and durable governing coalition to accomplish that Reagan knew that he needed to speak to all Americans.
Reagan stood for bold principles that were universal. For him, a big tent party was not just an electoral imperative. It was also a moral one. He knew that if our party wanted to truly represent America, we could not ignore any part of it.
My state hasn’t voted for a republican presidential nominee since George H.W Bush over thirty years ago. We had the highest Democratic registration in America.
But in 2014, I was elected governor in a state that everyone believed was impossible. And in 2018, in a blue year with a large blue wave, I became just the second Republican governor to be re-elected in the entire 242 year history of our state.
I did it by reaching out to everyone, including those who had never even considered voting for a Republican before.
In some places, they had never even seen a Republican before.
Too many in both parties have bought into the false narrative that the way you vote is pre-determined by where you were born, where you live, the color of your skin, who you love, or where you worship.
In this past election, the electorate was historically divided, but Republicans made some modest gains with Black and Hispanic voters who were turned off by far-left elitism and political correctness run amok.
In Maryland, we proved that a Republican can win support from Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, suburban women and young voters.
Not just to gain a few points, but to gain overwhelming majorities.
The truth isn’t always easy to hear, but I’m a guy who tells it like it is.
So here’s a truth that our party needs to hear, divisive rhetoric and toxic politics is alienating large parts of the country.
And no one will listen to our message if they don’t believe we’re listening to them.
We cannot continue to fail at expanding our tent - the way Reagan did.
Addressing the real concerns of everyday people is actually harder than political virtue signaling or preaching to the choir.
But that is what a large majority of Americans want and what they expect from their elected leaders.
Reaching across the aisle and finding common ground is much harder than simply attacking those with whom you disagree, but I know it can be done.
Just as Reagan once said, we are at a “time for choosing.”
Are we going to be a party that fails to win national elections or are we willing to actually do the hard work of building a durable coalition that can once again shape our nation’s destiny.
Some Republicans simply want to return to the way things were before 2016 while others want to continue in the same direction as if this election never happened.
That is a false choice. The answer is not to return to a party that often spoke only to the Washington establishment or only to the hardcore base.
For decades, Republicans have appealed to the memory of Reagan, while forgetting the true spirit of Reagan’s legacy. In the name of Reaganism, Republicans dogmatically applied obsolete policies without recognizing how the world had changed and without questioning old assumptions, the way President Reagan did.
The party used his successes as an excuse for obstinance. Our party forgot President Reagan’s call to “begin the world over again.” We let Reaganism become the language of the country club, Washington think tanks, and the Senate cloakroom, instead of speaking to the folks in Middle America, who powered the Reagan Revolution in the first place.
Our party does not need to return control to the establishment insiders, but we also - don’t need - and cannot afford to continue to perpetuate the toxic politics of these last four years.
America is at a critical crossroads. And unless we begin to change the self-destructive course both parties are on, this mess will simply just repeat itself again in 2024.
Ronald Reagan said that “freedom was never more than one generation from extinction.”
We must heed those words. We cannot take the blessings of liberty for granted.
We must work to secure them for our children and grandchildren. Look, I’m willing to stand up and fight for the things that really matter, but not for status quo politics and not to perpetuate polarization and paralysis.
We have to show those who have lost faith in our party and those who feel forgotten by Washington that we actually can get things done and that we can make their lives better.
We not only need to return to our principles, but we must reinvigorate them with commonsense solutions that work for 21st century challenges.
We don’t need another autopsy to know that we can’t bring more Americans into our ranks by only speaking to folks who already agree with us.
Voters value being heard more than being told what they should want to hear.
We don’t need Washington politicians, the media, or political consultants to tell us who to hate or what to think.
Americans are yearning to be brought together rather than driven apart.
What we need is less politics-as-usual and more real leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen. I, for one, refuse to give in and accept that anger has taken the place of the common good.
I refuse to give up and accept that the best days of the GOP – and of America – are a thing of the past.
I come from the get-to-work and get-things done school of politics, and I’ll work with anyone who wants to do the people’s business.
I still believe that the party of Lincoln and Reagan is the last best hope for our nation.
And I still believe as President Reagan did that America remains the last best hope of man on earth.
God Bless you - and may God Bless - the United States of America.