CONTRARY to popular belief, there is not yet a clear Republican majority in America. Voters ended nearly a half century of Democratic rule in Congress last November, turning to Republicans for much needed reform. We will convert our temporary majorities into a governing majority only if Republicans win at the presidential and congressional levels in 1996.
Fighting for a balanced budget and economic growth, reforms to save Medicare from bankruptcy, and downsizing the federal bureaucracy are a good start, but not enough. Republicans must avoid the pitfall some Democrats are desperately digging for us on divisive social, environmental, and ethnic-based issues.
Only a divided Republican party weakened by pandering to those at the extreme end of the political spectrum can be defeated by Democrats. We cannot afford a Republican Party that imposes litmus tests for leadership on issues like abortion, clean air and water, or affirmative action.
As some Republicans say, the American people are anti-abortion and pro-choice. Americans want less government regulation and more free enterprise, but not at the expense of essential environmental quality. And Americans want hiring to be based on merit, not quotas, but oppose discrimination and support help for the truly disadvantaged.
But a broad-based united Republican majority is not assured. There is a vast middle-ground constituency in American politics that could be won over. The political climate of the next generation will be shaped, not merely by the outcome of one campaign, but by the success of new leaders in mobilizing their constituencies. The winners will be those who can recruit and energize the most people, as volunteers, campaign leaders, donors, and candidates. Republicans who want a broad-based, inclusive majority lasting into the next century can win that contest.
Last weekend a broad spectrum of Republicans from around the nation gathered at the Conference for a Republican Majority, cosponsored by more than 50 Republican governors, senators, and members of the House of Representatives. The simple message is perhaps best expressed in the conference phone number: (202) ''GOP IN 96'' (467-4696). Anyone can pick up the phone and get involved.
Our 1996 conference, to be held a year from now in Washington, and the events leading up to it will explore ways citizens can influence American politics by working at every level, from the grassroots to the halls of Congress.
More serious than any ideological division in American politics is the fear shared by many Americans that they cannot have an effect on the political future of this nation.
A Republican citizens movement, committed to issues that unite rather than divide us, can help to guide a prosperous America safely into the 21st century.