Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Fix the Republican Party

This might take more than one post.

We Republicans are fast becoming a memory, to be thrown in the trash heap of passe political parties along with the Federalists, the Whigs and the Know-Nothings. We see it in the November election results and hear it on the airwaves: we are out of touch with the American populace, our core values have been rejected, we have no unifying theme, no strong leader. Stick a fork in us, we're done.

A recent Gallup Poll survey showed an average of 36% of Americans identified themselves as Democrats and 28% as Republicans in 2008. Add independents to the mix and you have a clear majority -- 52% of American voters -- identifying themselves as Democrats or leaning to the Democratic Party, compared with just 40% who identified with or leaned to the Republican Party.

Not since Ronald Reagan's reelection have the Democrats enjoyed such a favored position with the American people. Four years of the Bush Administration, coupled with the star power of Barack Obama, has elevated the Democratic Party to new dizzying heights and made Nancy Pelosi popping-out-of-her-chair ecstatic.

But the Republican Party does not have as far as some may think to regain its popularity. First, it needs to reclaim its position as the party that will fight earmarks, pork, every form of excessive and wasteful spending. Over the last eight years, Republicans have failed in this regard and have forgotten that they are supposed to be the gatekeepers of the money we send them and not profligate spenders rivaling their Democratic counterparts.

Second, stop scaring potential voters away with a platform long on social/religious statements and short on what really matter to the future of our country. Yes, I know that for some abortion is murder -- but that does not have to be a core belief of the entire Republican party. The party should stay out of the abortion debate all together -- those morally opposed to abortion in any form, at any time, are not going to flock to the Democratic party should we Republicans remove the issue from our platform. And those who support a woman's right to choose should not be told in unsparing words, you are not welcome in this party.

Similarly, the party should not focus on prayer in school, opposition to gay marriage, teaching of intelligent design, or any other religious right position that serves only as a lightning rod to alienate ourselves from the majority of American and runs counter to what should be our focus -- freedom and less government intervention in our lives.

Third, we need to better articulate why capitalism is the best economic system for all Americans and why moves in the direction of socialism (though appealing to some on the surface), would spell disaster to the future of our country. Right now we're the Scrooge party and can't compete with Santa. We need to explain how Obama's plan to limit itemized deductions discourages charitable donations, for example. We need to explain when the stock market plunges, as it continues to do, those who would spend, thereby keeping businesses afloat and workers employed, will simply keep their money to themselves. We need to explain how government handouts do not spur economic growth, build anything, create anything, or have any lasting impact.

We need to remind people of some basic rules their mothers should have taught them -- you can't live beyond your means, you can't take what isn't yours, you should save up for what you want, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Listen, I'll give it to the Democratic party. The managed to nominate a rock star for president, someone without a record of his own, who could mount a brilliant grass roots/youth driven/internet campaign based almost entirely on bashing the very bashable Bush administration. Obama's election was based on two things -- George Bush and Obama's ease in front of a teleprompter.

The Republicans are going to have to work a lot harder in 2010 and 2012 if we want to turn the tide back. Unless there is some novice state representative out there who gives great speeches and has a catchy slogan, we are actually going to have to sell the American people on our beliefs. But I think after watching the economy collapse after the administration makes business and high wage earners the enemy, Americans may be receptive to bringing back solid economic values. If it isn't too late.

1 comment:

  1. There's a series of documentaries on China making the rounds on (I think) the History Channel in which China is depicted like America of years ago: unabashedly capitalistic and willing to move forward with enterprise, entrepreneurism, capital formation, and wealth building investments.

    Today's United States, by contrast, has become a nation of angst-ridden, hand-wringing, guilt ridden apologists who are seemingly unable and unwilling--or both--to take pride in victory, making a buck, creating industry, turning a profit, and earning the well-deserved wealth that comes with that.

    I'm sure Thomas Jefferson is turning over in his grave.