Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's About Principles: What the Republican Party Must Do

The following are the stated principles of the Republican Party:

  • The Republican Party, like our nation's founders, believes that government must be limited so that it never becomes powerful enough to infringe on the rights of individuals.
  • The Republican Party supports low taxes because individuals know best how to make their own economic and charitable choices.
  • The Republican Party is supportive of logical business regulations that encourage entrepreneurs to start more businesses so more individuals can enjoy the satisfaction and fruits of self-made success.
  • The Republican Party is committed to preserving our national strength while working to extend peace, freedom and human rights throughout the world.

I believe strongly in all of these principles, and yet, I have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. (I haven’t always voted for the Democrat either, instead choosing to let my abstention speak for itself.) One would think that I would be easy game for the GOP, so why haven’t they been able to win me over? It’s not because their core principles are not brilliantly clear, sensible and powerful. Rather, it’s because Republicans never actually make their core principles the foundation of their platform, nor are they ever even able to achieve a unified vision of their platform across the various factions within their party.

The trouble with Republicans is not their passion for their core principles. It’s that they are usually even more passionate as individuals about something else, and they don’t know where to draw the line between beliefs about governance and beliefs about deeply personal life choices. What is especially unsavory to independent moderates about the conflation of these beliefs is that the personal beliefs that are most loudly proclaimed are often based on some form of intolerance, and they reek of hypocrisy in that they typically conflict with the core principles’ themes of individual responsibility, personal freedom, and limited government. Intolerance and hypocrisy also set you up to be a bad joke, as depicted in this video:

Rather than painting a clear picture of how legislation based on their core principles would create a better America, Republicans allow themselves to become fractured over issues concerning, for example, religion, abortion, gay rights, and in the case of Mitt Romney’s candidacy, whether they could accept a Mormon president, as if Mr. Romney’s faith mattered in the least to his potential job performance. Simply put, the Party has been a mess for a very long time, and it can only win the Oval Office when the Democrats hand it to them on a silver platter, as LBJ did with his aimless mishandling of Vietnam, as Carter did with his mishandling of the economy and our national defenses, and as Clinton did with his indiscretions, which elevated “moral values” to the #1 reason why people voted for George Bush in 2000. Winning by unifying against another’s weaknesses simply isn’t a sustainable long-term plan, because you have no strategy once the other guy is gone and you’re in control. You need a vision of your own, which is where core principles come into play. No principles, no identity. It’s that simple.

It took millions of independent moderates to put President Obama into office. I was among them. We all had our reasons for voting for him, but the lack of a good alternative was probably foremost. That, by no means, makes for a strong support base. Indeed, recent polls are showing that millions of independent moderates have withdrawn their support. Again, I am among them. This is going to open a door for Hillary in 2012 and for the GOP.

I believe that a healthy two-party system is critical, and that moderates need a voice within that system. Moderates are the swing vote, yet they are without a home. That needs to change, which is why I would like to see the Republican Party reform. If the GOP is going to become a viable alternative for moderates, it needs to have courage in its convictions and build a fortress around its core principles. Party members need to agree among themselves to shelve the social issues that ultimately divide the party and create an unacceptable environment for moderates. Accordingly, they need to develop a platform that focuses exclusively on matters concerning the prosperity, defense and welfare of the people. The GOP will never win if it is known as the anti-abortion, or anti-gay, or pro-prayer-in-school party. Certain right-wing factions within the Party would love such monikers, but they would be the kiss of death for the GOP. Party leadership needs to take control, purge intolerance from the agenda, and put the focus of the platform on the sound administration of the country. They need to go back to basics and stick to business. If they do, they might have a chance, and we might have an alternative for moderates.