During the fall of 2000, a political science professor at my university stated, quite correctly, I think, that the Democratic and Republican parties were becoming so alike that Americans were given no real choice in a given election year. I agreed with him then and I agree with him now.
Many Republicans, myself included, voted for George W. Bush because we didn’t think it possible that he could be as fiscally irresponsible as his father, our 41st president who was replaced by a more fiscally responsible – though considerably more morally flawed – Democrat.
In 2004, after the inexcusable expansion of entitlement programs and the creation of new government offices such as the utterly unnecessary and hopelessly inefficient Department of Homeland Security, many of us voted for Bush again. We did it because we thought Bush would make decent Supreme Court choices, and we were right. We also thought he could not become more fiscally irresponsible, and we were wrong.
By the end of his second term in office, we realized we had more than just a liberal Republican president on our hands. With the help of the worst Secretary of Treasury in history we had a president who would move our country further in the direction of socialism than any Republican president in history.
Some have called George W. Bush “our Jimmy Carter.” But that is unfair to Carter whose mistakes could be remedied in a few short years. It will take decades to correct Bush’s economic mistakes and years to rebuild the Republican Party.
It will be difficult for the Republicans to recover from the damage done by the two very bad presidents – and the two very bad losing presidential candidates – we have offered voters since Ronald Reagan left office. But, if we do recover, it will happen because we followed the advice of our fourth president James Madison.
James Madison believed that a republic is best served by competing political parties, which offer constituents very different visions of governance. His successor, James Monroe did not. Our fifth president thought we should move past the notion of political parties and work together towards common goals. But after six years of widespread cooperation, the last two years of Monroe’s tenure were characterized by considerable political strife.
Anyone who believes it is both possible and desirable to abandon partisanship should explore the history of the so called Era of Good Feelings and the presidency of James Monroe. While Monroe was re-elected easily the last two years of his second term are a testament to difficultly of sustained elimination of rivalry between political parties.
In Monroe’s final years he was crippled in his efforts to get compensation for tens of thousands of dollars of debt incurred during forty years of service to America. Never finishing his memoirs his last written words were spent addressing bitter conflicts that had erupted before he left office.
But today some are saying we should try to enter into a new Era of Good Feelings characterized by bi-partisan cooperation in the name of some sort of community interest and purpose, which allegedly binds the people of the United States together.
I disagree. I believe the Republican Party should immediately redefine itself by declaring a War on Intellectual Poverty against the Obama administration. I also believe we need to drive certain people from the ranks of the Republican Party.
We should begin our purge with those responsible for frustrating the Madisonian ideal of offering the electorate a distinct choice between different parties based on different ideals. In other words, we should send our Democrats back to the Democratic Party in the hopes of creating a party that appeals to a greater number of independents. Here are some ways we can do just that:
1. Reject Bailouts. The Republican Party has shown its first signs of life in a recent vote against the Democrats’ massive stimulus package – totaling well over a trillion dollars when interest is added to expenditures. As Republicans, we must embrace the notion of ideological litmus tests. We must remove everyone from office who does not conform to our absolute rejection of government bailouts. As a party, we will not succeed until out hatred of bailouts meets or exceeds our hatred of abortion.
2. Embrace the Fair Tax. Opposing bailouts means stopping this country’s gradual drift towards socialism. But that isn’t enough. We need to actually begin moving back in the other direction. That means we are going to have to actually close down some government agencies. I look forward to the day when “Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms” is nothing more than a chain of convenience stores. But, first, we must overthrow the I.R.S. By merely making a serious effort to do so, we will win back a lot of the Reagan Democrats we lost in the Clinton era.
3. Attack Immigration. Our weakness on immigration has cost us dearly. We need to reject McCain amnesty and take a harsher stance on this issue. We refrain from doing so because we believe we will lose the Hispanic vote. But the data indicate that as we softened our stance on immigration between 2000 and 2008 we lost ground with Hispanic voters. We need to target Hispanic voters by running towards, not away from, our core principles. Hispanics are pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-business. We will win them over on those three issues alone – but only if we refuse to be side-tracked by racial identity politics.
4. Court Ron Paul Republicans. Our refusal to allow Dr. Paul a prominent speaking slot at the 2008 convention was disgraceful. We need to energize the young vote and no one can do so like Ron Paul. Some people say he’s crazy. Personally, I think everyone else in Washington is crazy. Regardless of whether he runs in 2012, we need to stop hiding this man during our conventions.
5. Embrace Greed. I bought a house four years ago. Immediately, I began to tear out old dying bushes and trees. I then planted jasmine along the back wall of the house and a big, beautiful willow tree in the middle of the yard. I put out bird feeders, which have now attracted six species of woodpeckers. But I didn’t do any of this because I love the environment. I did it to increase my property values. And it has been a successful venture. My point is that greed is not bad. It’s good for a lot of things including the environment. The next time we hear a Republican say “My friends, we need to do something about greed on Wall Street” we need to cordially ask him to leave the party.
These are just a few things we can do to start rebuilding the party – most of which are focused on our economic problems. In a future column, I’ll talk about how we need to retool our social policies in order to provide the voters with a true example of “choice.”