“We need an opposition force in our country. ‘Party of No’? Somebody ought to say No.”
Star Parker is a woman on a mission, and she was in Nashua the other day to recruit allies. A black Republican woman, she is passionately committed to persuading people that defending life and promoting freedom from government dependency are keys to American renewal. She’s no desk-bound policy wonk, though. Ask anyone who has tried to take notes at one of her rapid-fire speeches. For future reference: when Parker’s at the podium, forget taking notes. Just listen. There’s no way to miss the points she’s making.
On May 20, she was the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women’s annual Lilac Luncheon. To an audience that included NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn, she described her path from being dependent on welfare as a young woman to being what she calls “a conservative crusader.” She is president of CURE (Center for Urban Renewal and Education), a nonprofit agency she founded in order to promote market-based solutions to poverty in America. She calls herself “conservative” without modifiers like fiscal or social. According to CURE’s web site, CURE “protects unborn life, traditional mores, capitalism, parental rights and private property.” All at once? Yes, says Parker: “We believe there is something inherently wrong with people who trap other people into pathologies that they know are destructive. …Getting the message of freedom into our communities should be conservatives’ top priority.” Parker travels around the country with that “message of freedom” that incorporates economic and social policy. She is also a syndicated columnist, author, and frequent guest on news programs.
Her Republican activism goes back a number of years. She spoke at the 1996 GOP national convention. In 2010, she ran for Congress in a California district that had not sent a Republican to the House in twenty years. When she met voters, “I told them how I fought the lie of the Left. I just told my story.” Parker did not prevail in the election, although she earned more than 29,000 votes in a district that couldn’t even get a Republican on the Congressional ballot in 2008.
Will she run again, now that post-2010 re-districting has placed her in a more Republican area? “I don’t know. But I am extremely pleased with my Congressional representation.” That would be Rep. Darrell Issa, of Benghazi-inquiry fame. His name drew applause and cheers from the Nashua audience.
On to Parker’s message, delivered with unflagging energy. “The top three social crises confronting us are rooted in social matters: AIDS, abortion, and entire welfare state. …The first question conservatives should be asking is ‘what is wrong with our nation, and how do we fix it?’ Our nation was designed to be free under God, and we’ve lost our way.”
She has no patience for apologists for socialism. She was a guest on the host panel of ABC’s The View when Michael Moore was a scheduled guest, when his film Sicko had just been released. “I just wanted to ask him one thing: why did he have to go to Cuba or Canada to learn about socialized medicine? Go to Compton or Camden or any other inner city in this country, where the government controls health care.” She was unable to work that question into the show, however, so “I just did what my pastor had told me to do. ‘Just tell your story.’ And I did.”
In Nashua, she posed a blunt question to her audience: “Do we really, as a Republican party, think we can only talk about the economy?” This was a mixed crowd, all GOP or GOP-leaning, but with more than a few activists who are uneasy with the role of social conservatism in the party. Parker had the crowd with her by the time she asked her question, though, and her listeners were willing to let her speak her peace.
On education: “I am so thankful that your state is on the cutting edge of school choice,” referring to the education tax credit program that survived a repeal attempt in Concord this year.
On Medicaid: “What we know about Medicaid is that it’s so corrupt with government intrusion that some doctors will not accept it.” Parker is deeply concerned that this has driven Medicaid recipients to emergency rooms and barred them from timely consultation with specialists, who could intervene before a condition becomes disabling.
On American exceptionalism: “We need people who understand a strong national allegiance and defense. We have to talk about American exceptionalism and E Pluribus Unum, many becoming one. I’m so adamant, because my life story involves American exceptionalism. It took an economic collapse to get Main Street looking at this.”
On the Tea Party movement: “I am really thankful that the Tea Party showed up. When they began to focus on socialism, and say it out loud, I was thankful because in Uncle Sam’s Plantation [published by Thomas Nelson, ISBN 1595552235], I’d already talked about American socialism. Ten years ago I wrote that book. It’s current today.”
On the GOP being characterized as “the party of No” by Democrats: “We get timid when they call us the Party of No. The problem facing our country today is that liberalism doesn’t work. Somebody ought to say no.”
From there, she spoke pointedly about the future of the GOP. “Uncle Sam’s plantation didn’t work for blacks, and it’s not going to work for the middle class. Our nation is a culture locked in moral free-fall, and the ones getting hit hardest are the poor. We are in an aggressive war for the very heart and soul of our country. We’re a split nation, and then we’re split within the Republican party. We should know after the last election that we are exactly where we were in the 1800s when Abraham Lincoln said ‘we can’t do this anymore.’
“[Liberals] started three aggressive wars against the poor in the 1960s and they have been raging ever since, and the opposition party does not talk about it. At some point, we need to have a discussion about this, to determine who we are, so that we can then come up and make a case.” The wars, according to Parker, were (and are) on religion, on marriage, and on poverty.
Parker traces the war on religion to U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1960s, which “weakened our public institutions. That opened the door to a culture of corruption. At what point are we going to stand up and be the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Ronald Reagan, that says ‘no, you cannot have a free country, be a moral people, without being a religious people’?” She suggested that a GOP “listening tour” should include listening to the Religious Right, “to find out what happened to our base.”
The war on marriage, she said, “opened the door to meaninglessness,” including abortion. “Abortion has deeply hurt us. 55 million dead? How many pictures do we need to see of Gosnell’s and say ‘oh, I’m just going to turn my eye from that one; it’s an anomaly’? It’s not an anomaly. …Late-term abortion is law; you can kill up to 24 weeks [in PA]; how do you think we kill a 24-week-old baby?”
As for LBJ’s War on Poverty, “It weakened the family and opened the door to the culture of entitlements. Redistribution of wealth will never work, because it’s inconsistent with the founding of this country. … Government dependency gripped America’s poor and minority communities some fifty years ago and locked three generations in economic stagnation.”
Parker braided the three “wars” together into an attack on the still-looming HHS mandate to Obamacare, which classifies women’s contraception as “preventive care” and thus seeks to impose payment for it on all participants in health insurance plans. “I don’t see anywhere in the Declaration of Independence that politicians have a right to force me to pay for my neighbors’ lifestyle: not their housing, their food, their child care, their habits, nor their sex life. It’s not in the Constitution that a politician has the right to force religious institutions and religious individuals to subsidize activities, behaviors, or life choices that they consider abhorrent and a violation of the tenets of their faith. This battle against Obamacare and the HHS mandate is one that we must fight.”
(Clarity like that is enough to make a voter wonder why so many New Hampshire candidates avoided talking about the mandate in 2012.)
One pro-life activist in attendance texted to another, “She can say things that you and I could never get away with saying!” Perhaps. Parker has a compelling life story that gives credibility to her words and her work. And yet she seemed to be challenging her listeners to speak up, and quit worrying about “getting away” with it. As she said about her unsuccessful Congressional bid, “I didn’t want to wake up the next day and say, ‘oh, Lord, why didn’t I try?'”