A Big Tent for the Right Reasons

There is a lot of bandwidth being used lately in the discussion over the rebuilding of the Republican Party.  The moderates and the folks on the further right (like me) seem to be talking past one another in heated discussions, but lets recognize some common ground and move forward.  Having now elected a new party chairman, it’s best we do so quickly.

I use the ‘big tent’ cliche in my title; we can attempt to create it two ways.  One is by trying to be all things to all people, in the manner that the Democrats have used in the past.  This works at some level, particularly among the segment of the electorate that does not dig too deep into the issues to realize the contradictions inherent in trying to please so many factions simutaneously.  Another way is to focus on a very few core principles, commonly held by a majority of the electorate.  Before I get into those core principles, let me set up my argument on that theme by covering what I hope is some common ground for most Republicans.  I’ll make some assumptions that I’m sure you all will be quick to correct me on if go astray.

 One assumptionI I’ll make is that we prefer that the decisions made about how government is to impact our lives be done as locally as possible.  In other words, the concept of Federalism  and the primacy of the states is something we can agree on (after all, it was the states which formed the union, not the other way around).  There should be 50 experiments in government going on with regard to most of the issues which concern us, rather than one ill-fitting solution dictated by a distant central government.  This also holds true when a national Republican Party attempts to craft a platform on a cornucopea of issues, most of which are better left to the state parties to decide.  The solution a Conneticutt Republican Party finds viable with regard to an issue may be entirely different from the one a Tennessee Republican Party has.  When the National Party is asked “what is your platform on issue A”, the reply would be, “That is something the for individual State Parties to determine, since we believe that particular issue should not be decided at the national level’.  This would put an end to the concern raised by Sen. McConnell and others about the danger of the Republican Party being a ‘regional ‘ party.  There are indeed regional flavors to certain issues which divide us, so let’s not attempt to address them with national solutions.

Another assumption I’ll make is that we prefer fiscal responsibility and free-market capitalism to the alternative.  As to the first half of that assumption, the public sentiment is in our favor generally (notwithstanding the sentiment influenced by human nature more specifically).  Please tell me we can agree that a “compassionate conservative” deficit spending program is functionally the same as a Modern Liberal deficit spending program – and cost us dearly in the 2006 election.  As to the second half of my assumption, I’ll go out on a limb here and maintain that this too is a widely held public sentiment, although one that is constant need of shoring-up through education and empirical evidence.  These are examples of two elements of a national platform.  A strong national defense is, of course, a third.

Someone made a comment that “the Republican Party has too many principles”.  Well, I place a great value on principles.  I would rather say we have too many planks in our platform, which alienate some folks unnecessarily.  Some issues are vastly more important than others for our survival and continued prosperity as a nation, let’s focus on those at the national level.  Some of the more divisive social issues (where ‘one size does not fit all’)  should be settled at the local level – and I say that as a Social Conservative.