The Democratic Party has found it’s effective voice, the Republican Party has lost it’s own. There is joy and celebration among Democrats, there is angst und strum among Republicans. For those who are truly non-partisan, however, there is at best transient satisfaction at this change in political climate.
While some among the Grand Old Party faithful call for more of the same (yes, we’re looking at you, Mr.s Cheney and Limbaugh) others like Republican Strategist Todd Harris and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are talking about the need for a new focus for their party. I have some thoughts as to what a workable and respectable GOP would look like.
What is good about the GOP?
For many of the happier people in America today the answer is simply: “Nothing”. I have a different take on this, so let me try to spell out what I have always found attractive about Republican ideology.
1/ Personal responsibility.
– This really is the core belief, that each of us is responsible for ourselves. If you take a long step over a steep cliff then the consequences of that decision are something that you would have been well served to consider beforehand. Conversely, if you choose to invest your time or your money in something that everyone else either doesn’t see or doesn’t believe in – and you turn out to be right – you get to benefit to the maximum from your choice.
2/ Personal freedoms
– This, like most other valuable Republican beliefs, follows from (1). Since each is encouraged to be responsible for themselves each is consequently free to do as they see fit, within minimal possible limitations.
3/ Fiscal conservatism in government
– While both parties are to the right of the Controlled Economy ideology of the former East Bloc, and even to the right of the socialized systems of Scandinavia and parts of Europe, the Republican party has a valid argument in keeping as much of the economy as possible out of the hands of government. Government is good at providing the same (education, defense, towels) to every citizen but does so at greater expense and lower innovation than the private sector.
4/ Effective entrepreneurial capitalism
– This is the other half of (3) but deserves it’s own plank. The GOP has long stood on the side of business as the source of the resources required to build nations and this is a position that deserves to be argued loudly. As a shameless capitalist myself I would suggest that capitalism flourishes best with proper rules (aka “regulations”) and advise the GOP to adopt a pro-business pro-regulation stance.
5/ Strong defense
– I’m not sure this is still a Republican point – the Democratic Party is no less enthusiastic on the topic – but there is at least a difference in approach. The Republican Party has taken its position on the side of Force over Diplomacy, and while I don’t agree with the extent that the Bush administration went it could be argued that there is value in having a slightly-badder-cop to balance the Democrats’ slightly-nicer-cop. This is not to say that the Bush Doctrine is correct, rather that should the Left wander too far into peacenikism that a healthy Right should be willing to make it abundantly clear that the US will still kill bad people very dead if provoked.
What has got to go from the GOP platform?
Again, there are those to my right who shout “nothing!” and those to my left who would say “everything!”, but for me it is all those things that make no sense against the backdrop of what I find good about the GOP. For starters, get rid of everything rooted in religious extremism – that runs counter to the conservative fundamental of personal freedoms.
1/ “pro life”
– the debate about the beginning of life is a fascinating one, but it has nothing to do with Conservative values.
– the “global warming is a lie”/”too many polar bears” mantra is not only a bad bet (the argument will be decided one day and you may just be wrong) the whole anti-environmentalist stance is counter to the interests of many intrinsically Republican voters. Most of the outdoorsy, hunting and fishing community are natural Conservatives, provide the bulk of cash for parks and personal interest in woodlands and wetlands – and they know when things are changing. More than a few would-be Republicans are Democrats particularly because of the anti-environment position of the GOP.
3/ Anti Gay
– The most fundamental Conservative belief is that it’s none of your business. Whatever it is. Choosing to set the government against what people do with their sex lives is as counter to that fundamental principle as it is possible to be. And beer-drinking, denim wearing, duck-hunting Good Southern Christian men play hanky-pank with other beer-drinking, denim wearing, duck-hunting Good Southern Christian men, too.
4/ Anti Drugs
– See (3). Having the government regulating its citizens’ body chemistry is perhaps even more invasive than allowing it to monitor it’s citizens’ sexual combinations. The Good Ole Boys of the South shot at Feds who came to take away their drug-labs (stills) and those same ole boys were and are growing pot in those same hills for the same reason (and they’ll still shoot trespassing Feds). Fundamentally a Conservative doesn’t care what you were hopped up on when you wrecked your car/robbed the store – all that counts for is where on the dumbass scale you are measured in court (see “Personal Responsibility).
I see a future GOP that I could vote for, and given enough time in power I can imagine a future Democratic Party I could vote against. I hope the former finds itself before the latter does.