Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's Time For Some Self-Definition


First, let's get this out of the way. The news today of Parker Griffith becoming a Republican is a huge blow for Nancy Pelosi and one that her own party is, tonight, blaming her for. It is an embarrassment to President Obama who, like Bill Clinton, is seeing conservative and independent minded people fleeing him as fast as possible.

But, on our side of the aisle, we need to ask, given that all Parker Griffith did was change the letter next to his name from a "D" to an "R", what exactly does it mean to be a Republican?

The GOP embraced him with open arms as one of us today. Should they have done so?

Compare that to the Democrats who are fighting Arlen Specter in the Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania after his party switch to the Democrats.

Parker Griffith may actually be a good Republican. He said he'd never vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker again. He voted against Obama. He voted against Cap and Trade. He has voted with the Republicans on a lot of issues, but he has still voted with Nancy Pelosi 80% of the time when you add up all the procedural votes, etc. that he has participated in.

So why do we now give him a pass. Changing the letter next to his name does not actually change him as a person or change his mind.

We may, in fact, decide that Griffith is the best we can do in AL-05. Several readers at RedState make this case, even though there is already a Republican running with the support of the local tea party movement in Alabama.

Like with so many candidates in so many places, we should not rely on the GOP inside Washington to tell us who is and is not worth supporting. All of us are able to make up our own minds.

But why give the guy a pass? Michael Steele, when Arlen Specter jumped to the Democrats, said it was because Arlen was putting his own political future ahead of the people he represented. Today, Steele praised Griffith's conversion.

People change all the time. Ronald Reagan started as a union boss and Democrat. He always said the Democratic Party left him, he did not leave the Democrats. We have to accept that people do change over time.

But in a year?! It was not even a year ago that Parker Griffith was sworn in as a Democrat and the GOP was attacking him, citing posts from RedState, as a mouthpiece for Nancy Pelosi. Come on. Are we really supposed to believe this guy isn't being a political opportunist? And if he is so ready and willing to switch so quickly to the GOP after the Democrats poured massive money into his district to get him elected in 2008, who is to say he is not later going to be a political opportunist of some kind against our side?

I've got no overarching problems with Parker Griffith. He is, after all, an LSU graduate so he has to be mostly redeemable. I do, however, think it should take more than switching the letter after your name to make you "one of us."

The GOP fell out of power largely because the public could no longer tell what the GOP stood for other than the acquisition of power. It caused them to get greedy, corrupt, and lazy. If anybody can be an R regardless of what they stand for — and I recognize than a New England Republican is necessarily different from a Southern Republican — why have the label at all?

At a minimum we need to think this through and not just be willing to go with the guy who has our preferred letter next to his name. When both party establishments have, over the past decade, set us on a course for creeping nanny state fascism and socialism, I am no longer prepared to accept that it is just politics.

At some point ideas matter most.

Rather than ideas, I'd phrase it as 'principles matter most'.  Therefore, we need to define some.  We can be a 'big-tent' party if we're based on principles rather than divisions.  It would be really simple, and it would go something like this:

"Anytime anyone agrees with us on any issue, you're in.  Welcome to the party!"

If we splinter off into one-issue constituencies like the Democrat party, then we'll have the same sort of catch-22 problems that the Dems face on DemCare right now, with one group saying they won't accept a bill with the public option and another group saying they won't accept a bill without a public option.  Despite have a supermajority, they haven't done nearly what they promised their constituencies because of the single issue in-fighting.  That's not the way to build lasting coalitions.

If the Republican party re-centers itself on a few key, core principles -- things like smaller government, fiscal responsibility, traditional family values, the primacy of the Constitution, lower taxes, (real) transparency, and energy independence, just to name a few possibilities -- around which there will be
no compromise, many people will join up most of the time.

Think about it this way.  Most people aren't down-the-line liberal or down-the-line conservative.  Life has a way of coloring your perspective on things as you go along.  Maybe you're gay but pro-life.  Maybe you're fiscally conservative but a big environmentalist.  Maybe you're a national security hawk but against the 2nd Amendment.  Everyone is a different mix of positions on different issues.  So, people generally vote on the balance of things.  If they lean left on a couple issues but are generally more to the right, they'll go with the candidate or party that most closely reflects that view, and vice versa.

The first step is to define what it means to be a Republican.  What do we stand for?  No one knows right now, because the general impression of the GOP is small government, fiscally responsible, and strong on defense.  We got the defense part pretty well, but the other two?  Puh-lease!  Diet Democrats is a far more accurate description - the same thing, just not quite as much kick to it.  As a party, the GOP has morphed into a vaporous blob that no one really likes or understands, and certainly doesn't trust.  This is where those core principles come in.  If the GOP drops the anchor on a few key principles and proves -- through actions, not just words -- that they will stick to them no matter what (which is another area of GOP failure lately), they'll attract a lot of followers, partly because those core principles are generally reflected in the population at large and partly because there's nothing like clarity to reveal the real differences between the parties.

This is what we need right now.  This is what America needs right now.  It's right there for the taking...will the current GOP leadership do it?  No.  They're the ones who got us into this mess in the first place.  We need new leaders with clean records and new enthusiasm.  We need a clear, concise message based on core principles addressing major issues.  With these two things in place we throw open the gates, and anyone who agrees with us on any of these core principles is welcome to join us at any time.

There won't be a tent big enough to hold everyone.

There's my two cents.

No comments: