Monday, July 29, 2013

Restoring the GOP

Enough is enough!

This nation has lived through not one, not two, but a minimum of three massive scandals in the last few months. First, there was the disastrous handling of the attack on the Benghazi consul, and the ensuing cover-up by the Obama administration. Next, we learned that the IRS has been systematically targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny, an act that would be repulsive on its own, but when linked to other power-plays by this administration, is absolutely outrageous. Finally, it was discovered that the NSA has been compiling the phone and Internet records of Americans without warrant and certainly without the knowledge of most citizens. Each of these issues alone, is serious, but when linked together they show an alarming trend toward an ever-more-daring and expanding federal government.

In addition, in areas of social justice, we see an increasingly volatile debate over issues of abortion and marriage rights - We have become a nation where the "rights" of two men to marry each other are accepted and condoned, while the fundamental right to life is denied to millions of unborn children under the pretext of "women's choice."

The Republican Party has allowed progressive policies and vocabulary to dominate American politics for far too long - it is time that we found our voice again. When I say that, I do not mean the sort of voice that members of the establishment have held - compromising our platform and personal beliefs in order to win the next election. Nor do I refer to the libertarian shift among many younger conservatives, though I understand and appreciate their concern over the heavy regulations that our government continues to place on businesses and individuals. I am calling for a third course of action that, to my knowledge, has seen little public debate. Instead of accepting the argument that we must either elect the next president or remain conservative to our core,  my response is simply: can't we do both?

It is no secret that the GOP has a lot to figure out before the 2016 general election. After all, in 2012, we managed to lose a presidential election to an incumbent with a job approval rating hovering around 50% in the middle of a recession - a situation that is rare, to say the least. It is apparent that the longstanding coalition of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and hawks that compose the GOP base of support is weakening. But why is this? This group, originally unified by former-President Ronald Reagan has historically united in defense of limited-government, traditional values, and a strong military.

What we are witnessing today, however, is a sad, if not entirely unforeseeable break between fiscal conservatives and hawks on issues of federal spending and between social and fiscal conservatives on government regulation of social ills. Until this conflict is resolved, the GOP will have a difficult time winning any presidential election. In my mind, there are three ways to address this issue - one, is the route taken by some members of the establishment - looking for new members to the base. For example, the Republican party has historically failed to garner support from Latino voters, who are predicted to quickly become the largest minority group in the nation. If the GOP could gain the support of even a moderate portion of the Latino vote, our likelihood of winning in 2016 is significantly higher.

With this thought in mind, many Senate republicans have opted to ally with democrats on what they are calling "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" which essentially grants temporary resident status to illegal immigrants in addition to increased funding for border enforcement (for a summary of the proposed legislation, click here). The hope is that Latino voters, who strongly support amnesty, will gratefully rally behind Republicans in 2016. The issue with this approach, however, is the fact that a huge portion of the GOP base does NOT approve of amnesty, citing the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act as an example of the failure of amnesty programs.

The second way is to embrace conservative policies at any cost - refusing to support any presidential candidate that we cannot completely resonate with. The Ron Paul "Revolution" campaign was an example of this approach to political involvement - rejecting anyone but their ideal candidate, consistently loyal supporters allowed Paul to retain his position as a candidate far longer than many other candidates, despite having a smaller base of support. Though I applaud this movement for their conservative beliefs, I worry that they too easily dismiss the importance of working with political opponents when there is potential for joint efforts. If one must only support the perfect candidate, they will never support anyone, since no politician or statesman, no matter how consistent in their beliefs, will ever prove perfect.

The third option is the one that I hear discussed far less often, but which, in my mind, is the most logical - return to the party platform, vote in accordance with its planks, and devote more time to educating "opponents" on why we believe what we believe.

Instead of arguing about which parts of the government should be largest in comparison to others, or when exactly "life" begins for a fetus, we must emphasize the reasons why the principles behind limited government and the right to life are essential. This approach avoids the unnecessary semantical debates by cutting straight to the core of the issue. I am convinced that once people understand the principles that our Founding Fathers sought to protect and why they established the government that they did, the vast majority of voters will embrace them. It is no coincidence that our founders referred to these principles as "self evident."

Additionally, when we find common ground on the majority of issues with a candidate, legislator, or other official - instead of attacking them for their one or two weaknesses, encourage and emphasize what you agree with. Then explain to them why you disagree with them on the other points, urge them to reconsider their own stance, and let it be. Too easily we forget the power that an articulate and well-connected constituent can have over an official.

This doesn't mean that we have to compromise our morals or values. If we cannot find common ground on an issue, than we should stand our ground. But if we find a candidate that we agree with on nine out of ten key issues, we should be willing to support them on those issues. This is how networking works! Quid pro quo. Once they respect us as educated and rational individuals, they may reconsider their position on the disputed issue. Even if this does not happen, there is still a net benefit from the exchange.

I'm not attempting to convey this as a comprehensive plan for the GOP to win the 2016 general election - but I do believe that it is a start. If we can practice this approach in debates within our own party - and work together to educate voters outside our base, we might just have a chance to preserve the Republican party for the next generation.

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