The current Grand Old Party is in despair and acknowledging some need for change. Since the end of the Reagan Administration it has slowly become the “Grumpy Old-White-Man’s Party” with little appeal to individuals outside of its traditional coalition, and even within that coalition there is little enthusiasm. So, most acknowledge there are problems; But what are they? How can they be fixed? These are the questions party insiders and loyalists are already attempting to answer.
What are the Problems?
While the mistakes made by George Bush’s Republican Party are so numerous one could probably never compile a completely conclusive book on the matter, most can be traced to fundamental root causes that desperately need to be identified and purged- below are a few of the broad policy mistakes committed by the Party.
The first and perhaps most important problem of the Republican Party is its lack of respect, and often distain, for the rule of law and individual liberty. This was manifested particularly well in the 2003-2006 era, long after the initial fear and uncertainty in the wake of 9/11, with legislation such as the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, numerous electronic privacy infringements, and a number of other unconstitutional activities including the effective elimination of habeas corpus. For a nation founded as the premier beacon of personal liberty, these recent policies are like knives stabbed directly into its heart and soul. Respect for the rule of law, rather than the rule of man, is a point that cannot be overstressed. The Republican Party has not held true to this most-important ideal, even while its candidates make proclamations to uphold it.
The second mistake of the Republican Party is the culture of spending it helped not only maintain but expand beyond comprehension. For instance the US Federal Budget for fiscal year 2000, Clinton’s last budget, was $1.9 trillion, a far cry from fiscal prudence, but when compared to the $3.1 trillion budget (not including war, bailout, stimulus, etc) President Bush submitted for fiscal year 2009 it looks quite lean. Inflation and natural increases can only account for a portion of the growth. The rest seems to have been allocated down a black-hole because if my hunch is correct American’s are not feeling any increase in the quantity or quality of services in spite of the rapid growth of federal spending. The Republican Party still to this day claims to be the party of fiscal conservatism, yet this could not be farther from the truth. If the party changes its actual policy to better represent its proclaimed policy then maybe it will begin to reclaim some level of credibility with voters.
The third major blunder of the Republican Party over the last 8 years is its willingness to support a radical non-American foreign policy of American aggression and intervention oversees. The need of pre-emptive war when one nation is in the process of initiating attack is historically understood by most foreign policy analysts, but the present day Republican Party has taken the notion to the extreme. Not only are nations subject to attack if they gain the power to mount their own attack against America (even without willingness to use it), but they are subject to attack for only attempting or better yet desiring the power to defend their nations against a potential American strikes. This belief used to be called naked aggression. The Republican Party has combined the worst of realism and idealism to create a foreign policy that is so extreme, so perverted, that future generations will look back and ponder “what in the world were they thinking?”.
Another major mistake made by the Republican Party has been its embrace of corporatism through tax favors, regulatory favors, direct subsidies, and other mechanisms employed by the politically connected to garner a government assisted hand-up for particular companies and industries. Businesses will often claim they are under enormous squeeze by a variety of factors, usually created by government, and if they do not receive a federal handout they will be forced to liquidate or scale back their operations. This much is true, but it is not reason enough to engage in the horrid system of corporatism, where winners and losers are chosen by the federal government, and those with the best connections are enriched. In the minds of voters, the recent TARP Bailout probably only further connects big business with the Republican Party. For decades it was the Democrats who were the party of corporatism- now that mantle is assumed by the Republican Party.
The final problem of the Republican Party to be outlined in this article is its current form of social conservatism. It is possible to take a pro-life, pro-marriage policy stance while still maintaining the general foundations of personal freedom. Ron Paul for instance is one of the few politicians able to tread the line on social issues, garnering support from atheists and progressives and evangelicals and conservatives. The Republican Party, since 1980 (even more so since 1990) has lost any progressivism it once had. By current standards Barry Goldwater would not be welcome in the present day Republican Party because of his favoring of abortion and gay rights.
Since the defeat of Robert Taft the Republican Party has steadily and slowly (accelerating recently) morphed its policies from progressive libertarian to neo-conservative. For the last four decades the expansion of the coalition (inclusion of pro-war liberals, religious single issue voters, etc) that brought the party to its current demographics resulted in some short term gains in the voter’s booth, but the “big-tent” now has truly become nothing more than a circus.
In the follow up to this article, to be titled “Solutions for the Republican Party”, I will provide some solutions the Republican Party should consider when formulating reform over the coming months and years. Studies have shown that libertarian voters represent up to 20% of the electorate, thus making it highly unwise for the Republican Party to disregard the basis for these opinions.