According to a recent Rasmussen survey, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans is currently hovering around 33.6%, compared with 40% who identify as Democrats. There are a number of reasons the Republican party is currently the minority party, not the least of which is the public's perception of what a Republican is -- a white, middle-aged, right-wing, Evangelical, gun-toting, uneducated fascist.
But if you disregard the negative stereotype of the average Republican that is perpetuated in the media, and focus instead on the core values that most Republicans share, you might find that you are closer ideologically to Republican than Democrat.
Borrowing from the Jeff Foxworthy routine, I've come up with a few ideas that might help you determine where you belong in the political spectrum and reevaluate your image of the Republican party.
You might be a Republican if:
You love and are proud of America.
We all remember Michelle Obama's famous declaration during her husband's run for President that, for the first time in her adult life, she was proud to be an American. The reason that statement drew such ire was that the vast majority of us always feel proud to live in this country.
Pride doesn't mean we don't acknowledge faults and mistakes, but pride means believing that the freedoms and opportunities available in this country make it the greatest country in the world. And it is those freedoms that shine a light on our country's mistakes and help us grow even stronger.
You don't hate the wealthy.
Republicans view those who have attained wealth through hard work, talent and perseverance as the beacons for the rest of us. Those who make money -- create something of value, earn their wealth -- are esteemed and emulated. We go to school or send our children to school in hopes that they too can become wildly successful. We don't view them as thieves or greedy or evil. We know that since the beginning of our country, there have been entrepreneurs and visionaries who have taken risks and become wealthy as a result. And that their wealth helped build this country and create opportunities for others.
Republicans realize that the vast majority of the wealthy in America deserve what they have. Back in 1996, Professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book on America's wealthy entitled The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy . This book debunked many myths about the rich being mere inheritors of wealth, who were merely lucky, lazy, and irresponsible. In fact, they found that very few of the wealthy had inherited their wealth. Instead, they found that there were common traits shared by this group and they were the old stalwarts --taking risks, becoming an entrepreneur, getting a good education, going into a profession, saving your money, spending wisely.
Republicans don't hate the wealthy, they aspire to join them, whereas -- judging by their economic policies -- Democrats mostly want to tear the wealthy down.
You believe charity begins at home.
Many mocked George Bush's call for "compassionate conservatism" and claimed that Republicans, basically, do not care about the poor and misfortunate. In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Sociology Professor Arthur C. Brooks provided data that supports what Republicans have said all along. The Republicans want people to help people, the Democrats want the government to do it.
Brooks, found that religious conservatives were far more charitable than secular liberals, and that "those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others." And the charity imbalance was not just to "religious" charities, but for all types.
Brooks also found, according to Philanthropy.com, "that households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more."
It boils down to who do you think will do a better job with the money, the charity or the government. Republicans have faith in the local charities, Democrats have faith in the federal government. The Democrats have so little interest in privately-supported charities, in fact, that Obama's new budget includes drastic reductions in the deductions for charitable giving.
You believe there is good and evil, right and wrong.
One of the surprising semantic differences between Democrats and Republicans is the lack of "judgmental" language from the left when it comes to admitted enemies of the U.S. The Democrats want to talk with Iran, talk with North Korea, talk with Hamas. The Democratic Party Platform, for example, talks about diplomacy -- "going the extra diplomatic mile" -- with a country run by a man who wants nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel.
Republicans do not believe in moral relativism and have no trouble saying that some countries and some leaders are evil. Democrats want you to see things from the other person's perspective and extend understanding and a friendly hand, even to Hugo Chavez, even to Kim Jong-Il, even to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
You can find many more Democrats who are willing to call Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter "evil" than are willing to extend that epithet to any of our true enemies.
You don't expect government to have all the answers.
You only have to look at the recent stimulus package and the new budget proposals to see that the Democrats' motto is "in government we trust." If you look at the most recent pieces of legislation to come from the Democrats, ask yourself if this is your vision of America. Do you support the redistribution of wealth through higher taxes on America's top earners? Do you support raising the tax on capital gains and dividend income? Do you support reducing tax deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations? Do you support increased government spending, auto company bailouts, financial institution bailouts? Do you want the government to have that much power?
The country, as its founders envisioned it, was to be of the people, by the people and for the people. The government was to serve the people, not the other way around. The Democrats want the government to be your father and mother, they know best what's good for you, after all. You can't be trusted to do the right thing, to spend your own money, to run your own business. If you fall, the government will be there to catch you. There are no consequences for anything you do -- if you succeed, the government will take more of your money. If you fail, the government will pay you to make you whole.
What does that sound like? And, more importantly, does it sound like something you believe in?
Understandably, you may be loath to associate yourself with Limbaugh and Coulter and the other extremist talking heads who proclaim they speak for the Republican party. But they are not our leaders and they do not represent us.
The Republican party is a party of ideals and if you share those ideals, you just may be one of us.