Excerpted from “For a Moderate Majority,” Playboy Magazine April 1970, Josiah Lee Auspitz
Yes, you read that title right. The below is excerpted from the last page of Josiah Lee Auspitz’s article, “For a Moderate Majority,” published in the April 1970 edition of Playboy Magazine.
It fairly well articulates the situation the members of the Progressive Republican League now find themselves in, and beckons potential opportunities.
You can find the PDF of the original article at Auspitz’s website here. Of additional interest is the Ripon Society’s founding document, “A Call to Excellence in Leadership,” available on my personal blog here.
FROM “FOR A MODERATE MAJORITY”
…I feel that the Progressive GOP is the one to work through in an eight-party system; and if it wins the battle for political strategy, the Republican Party that emerges will be unqualifiedly the most worthy of support. If it loses, conservative strategists have predicted gleefully that its constituents will leave the GOP, which will, in that case, probably go the way of the Whigs, who assembled a retrograde coalition that won power for a brief period and then vanished from American history.
The outcome of the struggle would be certain were it not for the lassitude of the moderates. Because the Progressive GOP has mobilized in the past only around personalities, it now lacks the political infrastructure essential to a successful political movement. Because many of its present leaders suffer from a certain prima donna-ism, the new movement will not be built from the top down. This provides a historic opportunity for young leadership. There are already some indications that the harvest can be great. Moderates are best at intelligent discussion, at persuasion, at developing workable proposals. When they decide to cooperate, they are able to pioneer new patterns of collaboration between generations and to achieve results. They are capable of exciting others with ideas and eliciting sustained commitment. If they lead from their strength- not mass demonstration, but reason, competence, persistence, and tough-minded idealism- they can revolutionize the political system.
The experience of the Ripon Society may give some hope for these quiet tactics. Begun in December 1962 with only some 17 members and named after Ripon, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the Republican Party, it is still far from a mass organization; yet it has moved to change the tone of political debate in the 11 cities in which it now has chapters. It attempts to reach out to groups that have never considered voting Republican and to build bridges to the professional, academic, and business communities. It offers politicians research, political aid, and a monthly magazine with independent criticism and positive proposals. Its members adhere to the Republican Party not for what it is but for what they can make it become. They are now working at the White House, in government agencies, and on political staffs at all levels of government, and some will be running for office this year.
Ripon’s mottoes have been simple all along. Its members have sought not expedient slogans but “the ideas whose time is yet to come” and many of their programs for welfare reform, a volunteer Army, revenue sharing, and policy toward China and Vietnam have helped shape national policy. They have sought not heroes to admire but ways to galvanize themselves to action. As the society’s first statement said, well before this author had become a member:
“This, then, is a call to action… The question is often asked, where are the leaders of the new Republican Party? We have shown just how we need such men. If we cannot find them, let us become them.”
This spirit of challenge, from Ripon and other young, engaged groups, is desperately needed to shake up both of America’s decrepit political parties.
The Ripon Society seeks to attract creative young people to active participation in Republican politics. As the Society has built bridges between the Party and the nation’s campuses and professional communities, it has become an important resource to Republicans who face an ever more youthful and better informed electorate. Ripon also works to infuse the GOP with new ideas so that it may become the party of initiative rather than the party of response. For only in this way can Republicans avoid the equally unsatisfying role of being either the “me too” party or the “not me” party.
The Society believes that the two-party system in America must be preserved and strengthened. A strong and constructive Republican Party is essential to that effort. And just as the American nation is pluralistic, so must a vital GOP be widely diversified. It must more actively involve intellectuals, minority groups, laborers, and urban dwellers. It must win the confidence of those who are not at home in the politics of another generation: the new middle classes of our suburbs, the young who are more concerned with opportunity than security, the moderates of the New South.
Ripon maintains that if the Republican Party is to deserve majority status, it must find means to strengthen state and local governments. It must bring the resources of organized labor and private enterprise to bear on social problems. It must understand and deal creatively with new challenges in fields such as education, computerized information collection, and social welfare. It must be unequivocally committed to the full realization of civil rights for all citizens. In foreign policy, it must reject simplistic thinking, encourage frank debate, and make a serious attempt to understand the foreign cultures with which America will increasingly deal.
The Ripon Society believes that the Republican Party can become the party of adventure and excitement. It can break new ground in American politics and become a flexible instrument for exploring the challenges of the decades to come. Ripon believes that it can help the Republican Party to identify and claim the issues of the future, to raise the questions others do not ask, to grasp ideas “whose time is yet to come.”