Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Road Back: A Roadmap for the GOP

We’ve all heard the pundits say that without fundamental changes, the GOP will go the way of the Whigs. The Right Wing blames the Moderates (and McCain) for not being conservative enough, while the Moderates blame the Right Wing (and Palin) for being out of touch with the American People. Frankly, I’m tired of the “blame game”. Both sides are to blame as far as I’m concerned. What I and millions like me want to know is what can the Republican Party do now, not just to survive, but to win?

The GOP has lost its way. The Republican Party, since Ronald Reagan, oversaw the largest growth in the federal government in our nation’s history (yes, I know this is heresy to some). Instead, it was the Democrats talking about runaway government. The GOP needs to apologize to the American people. Then, they need every current and future candidate to sign a written oath that they will do everything in their power to reduce the size of government and eliminate government waste.

Secondly, the Republican Party forgot who they represent. Historically, the GOP was the party of the middle class (including skilled blue collar workers) and small business. Instead, it became the party of big money. Beginning with Reagan, and continuing under Bush I and Bush II, government cut the reins on business in the hopes that unrestrained capitalism would result in unrestrained economic growth. What happened was corporate greed run amok. Business has repeatedly shown that it can not be trusted to look after the wellbeing of the people on its own. Perhaps it’s not entirely their fault. Capitalism is, after all, about greed which in turn is about self interest. Thus, there is a need for at least some government regulation and monitoring of specific “troubled” industries to ensure management and labor are playing by the same rules and the public (including shareholders) aren’t getting ripped off. Those guilty of stealing millions should receive no less prison time than those stealing a few hundred.

The middle class has always been the backbone of this country. Well, right now that backbone is in serious need of a back brace in the form of permanent tax cuts aimed directly at them. Why not a tax wavier on personal saving accounts to encourage savings and build our own independent safety net? This would also make more money available to banks to loan. How about reinstatement of tax deductions on interest and fees across the board? We need a complete overhaul of the entire tax code. There is no reason in the world our tax structure should be as complicated as it is. Personally, I favor a national consumption tax. You buy it; you pay a tax on it. Corporations who ship jobs overseas should lose any tax deductions. The GOP was once the party of lower taxes. What happened? Let’s see some serious effort to get back on track here.

Speaking of shipping jobs overseas, what about NAFTA? Well, if you’re a large corporation, you’ve got to love it. If you’re a worker, you’ve got to worry about having a job. Remember, NAFTA was pushed over the objections of unions by then President Clinton. Personally, I think it’s proven to be a bust with the plant closures and job losses. I think the way to go is Fair Trade, which protects American jobs. This would be a great issue for the GOP to get behind since it promotes domestic job growth.

Let’s talk about unions and the Republican Party. There is no reason why there should be any animosity between Labor and Republicans. A lot of early labor organizers were Republican (like A. Phillip Randolph). Teddy Roosevelt was a supporter of unions as was Dwight Eisenhower. Frankly, workers can’t exist without management. Management can’t function without employees. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The key is to find a balance between providing a living wage and the company making a decent profit (contrary to popular belief, there isn’t anything wrong with making a profit). Both sides trying to dominate the other will bring the whole house of cards down and everyone loses—the company, the employees, the shareholders, the community, and the country. While we’re on the subject, let’s get back to allowing the rank and file to vote on issues like endorsements and concessions, instead of a few individuals making decisions for them. Labor should be all about democracy.

Let’s talk about minorities. As the last election clearly showed, there are few minorities in the GOP, which is shameful. There is simply no excuse why blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other groups don’t have strong representation within the GOP. Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr, Fredrick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rod Paige, JC Watts, Don King, Denzel Washington, Jackie Robinson, Lynn Swain, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Sammy Davis Jr., just to mention a few, are/were black and Republican? Did you know too that the majority of Cuban Americans are Republicans?

Unfortunately, what we saw at the Republicans convention looked like a bowl of vanilla ice cream. The demographics of America are rapidly changing. The Republican Party needs to reflect this if it’s to survive. The Democrats have with stunning success. Hispanics are now the second largest group in America. Blacks are third, but gaining quickly are Asians, who are the by far the single largest global group. The GOP must, at every level, actively and aggressively recruit minorities of every stripe as candidates (such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindel, whose family is from India The GOP needs to recruit and support more minorities, especially women, in leadership roles within the party itself. No more back entrance into the “big tent”.

Key Issues

Illegal immigration is still a key issue in this country with the vast majority of Americans opposed to amnesty and giving any taxpayer based benefits to illegals, yet Congress continues to ignore the American People. Why? Americans strongly favor repealing “natural birthright” laws which give the children of illegals automatic citizenship. Closely related is making English our official national language. These are conservative issues, but where’s the GOP?

America lags behind the world in education. A high school diploma isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on compared to high school graduates from the 1930s or 1950s. We’ve dumbed down our academic requirements in favor of “teaching to the tests”. We’ve done away with subjects, like music and the arts, which make for a well rounded individual in favor of sports. Sorry, but not everyone is going to be the next Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. Schools have become babysitting centers while teachers have all but lost authority over their classrooms. Quality education produces good citizens and employees. This attracts businesses and that pumps taxes into the local economy, which in turn improves the infrastructure like parks, roads, drainage, and pays for more firefighters, EMS, and police officers, which improves the overall quality of community life, which in turns attracts more jobs. Why isn’t the GOP taking the lead on this? Dumbing down education may help a few students “feel good” about themselves, but it does no one any good in the long run.

Most conservatives will agree that the Second Amendment was put there by our Founding Fathers to protect us from government and those who claim to have our “best interests” in mind. While there’s nothing wrong with registering guns to keep them (hopefully) out of the wrong hands, we must oppose every effort to circumvent the Second Amendment. The Founding Fathers put their faith in us, the American People, not government, when it came to protecting domestic liberties.

We must invest the needed resources into providing opportunities to our young people. The more opportunities, the less likely they will turn to gangs and crime. We must try to segregate violent offenders from non-violent offenders. We need more effort in rehabilitating non-violent offenders to keep them out of prison. We must reevaluate our drugs laws. Should possession of pot carry a similar sentence as possession of crack or murder? What should our focus be on?

Prisons too need to be changed. We don’t need state of the art gyms (especially weights) in prison. Why would you possibly want bigger stronger criminals? Gone too should be cable TV. Prisons should be required to be as self efficient as possible, including growing as much of their own food as possible. We need to return to the use chain gangs. If the public has to pay for their imprisonment, then they need to earn that money.

Conservatives have long supported the death penalty. In situations where there is irrefutable evidence, the death penalty should be carried out as quickly as possible. I think the appeal process should be shortened, and once exhausted, execution but be carried out within 30 days. As for the method, if we’re talking about murders and rapists, I don’t really care if they suffer for a tenth of a second while a needle is inserted and I don’t think most people do either. As for pedophiles, dress them in pink jumpsuits and put them in the general population (let’s see how they like being the victim for a change).

Speaking of reform, let’s talk about our welfare system for a moment. Everyone needs help from time to time. But if you’re on the public dole, you need to either be looking for a job or getting trained in order to get back to work as quickly as possible. Also, you should not keeping getting money for more having children. If the national average is three, then that’s all you get money for. If you want more, get a job. If not, stop at your local drug store. Welfare should be a temporary hand up not a career option.

National Issues

Addressing national issues, we need to maintain a strong military. However, we don’t need nor can we afford to be the world’s policeman. We must focus on protecting our borders and economic interests. Europe, Japan, and South Korea can look after themselves. We need to close those bases and bring our troops back home. We don’t need any more nukes. We’ve got enough to disintegrate every thing on this planet 10 times over. Instead, let’s focus on maintaining the weapon systems we already have. We must also allow other countries to chose the kind of government they want and stay out of the “nation building” business. As a disclaimer, I do support a strong democratic Israel.

In the name of national security, we need independent energy. We can not depend on other countries (especially those who hate us) for our oil. Let’s focus on developing more fuel efficient cars (without giving Detroit waiver after waiver). Let’s develop solar and wind energy sources. Let’s invest in mass transit systems like trolleys and light rail. At the same time, we must accept the fact that the environment is changing. It doesn’t matter if you believe this a natural event or man made; the result will be the same and we must take steps to protect our communities. Will GOP take the lead on this?

Fading Issues

There are other issues in which the Republican Party has carried the banner which doesn’t have the same importance it once did. Take prayer in school. As we’ve already discussed, people are more concerned about whether or not their children are safe and get a quality education, not if there’s a prayer or not (and whose prayer). Americans are a religious bunch overall. They just believe it’s a private affair and don’t want someone else imposing their beliefs on them or anyone else.

Abortion doesn’t seem to have the same public interest it once did. I suspect that’s simply because there’s simply no realistic way to resolve the issue. Most of us are torn between the protection of an unborn and control over our own bodies. Most Republicans can agree there shouldn’t be late term abortions, and abortions should never be used as a form of birth control. If the woman’s life is in danger, rape, or there is something catastrophically wrong with child, then it should be considered. So, perhaps the emphasis needs to be placed on prevention as much as possible.

Americans have overwhelming rejected gay marriage, but not gays. However, virtually everyone under 30 knows someone who is gay or bisexual, and really doesn’t care. Gays represent a huge section of the voting public. Let’s face it; being gay no longer carries the stigma it once did. Why would a conservative oppose someone who agrees you on most every other conservative issue if the only different was whether or not they’re gay or for that matter, on the issue of gays in general? Not every conservative agrees on every issue.

Conclusion

The Republican Party was once the party of individualism, small government, lower taxes, state’s rights and local control. It used to focus on personal choice and getting government out of our lives as much as possible. It focused on simplifying the tax code and letting Americans keep as much of their money as possible. It was about protecting workers from abusive management and maintaining a balanced playing field. It was about protecting the environment (remember Teddy Roosevelt?) and encouraging innovation. It was about putting America and Americans first. They need to get back to these basics.

The GOP too needs to form “shadow governments” everywhere the Democrats are in charge. They need to find people who can focus on specific issues and use their expertise to show people the differences between the two parties. They need to stop acting like they expect to lose and fight for every seat. Unless the GOP gets back to its roots, which means expanding its base and focusing on issues that matter to average Americans, the Grand Ole Party will go the way of the Whigs. It came into existence as a coalition party. If it is to survive, it may again need to become a coalition party.
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