Much has been said about the last couple of elections, the most recent one being analyzed from every conceivable angle. Of these analyses, the ones I hear most often have to do with the pro-life platform. On one side are the Rockefeller Republicans, who believe that the platform is too rigid, and thereby excludes moderates from participating with the Party who would otherwise identify more closely with them than the Democrats. On the other side are Single Issue Values Voters, who believe they never get what they want and continue to lose ground on the issue most important to them.
Within our two-party political system, we build coalitions all the time, just as is done in other countries with multiple parties. Sure, there are other political parties, but at this point they are nothing more than protest or conscience votes. A good number of these voters join with Republicans or Democrats in national votes, even though they self-identify as libertarian, green, etc. Occasionally, as in Florida in 2000, these voters that hold firm can actually make a difference and elect someone who is even further from their political position than the one selected to represent the party with which they more closely identify.
While there is significant diversity within the Democrat and Republican Parties, the difference between them I believe can be summed up in the following statement,
Republicans believe it is the duty of government to help those that cannot help themselves, while Democrats believe it is the duty of government to help those that won’t help themselves.
Politics is always the fine art of coalition building. When the coalition fails to achieve its goal, one of the first things to happen is placing blame on one faction or another. It is my belief that the two factions I mentioned above are both placing the blame on the wrong group. Single-issue values voters have made considerable gains in the past twenty years (much of which will now be lost due to the results of the latest election). The only reason they haven’t made more gains is because too many refuse to participate due to not getting everything they want. In case I need to enumerate the gains that have been made, how about 4 Constitutionalist SCOTUS judges, a federal ban on partial-birth abortion, and an increase in parental notification laws in many States, just to name a few.
Rockefeller Republicans believe that fanatic social conservatives are driving away potential Republican voters because of their perceived extremism, but I believe they are simply using them as a scapegoat. The most fanatical pro-lifers aren’t actually participating in the party at this time, and similar fanatics haven’t prevented the Democrats from being successful (see Code Pink, etc.). The difference is, their fanatics are actually participating in the only system we have, while many of ours simply sit out and throw stones at us.
Whether a two, or multiple party system, eventually to gain a majority coalitions must be built. I’ve spent many years studying Church history and Apologetics. There’s an interesting statement that is often thrown out by Catholics as an argument against Protestants. They claim there are more than 30,000 different Protestant Christian denominations, and of course can’t all be right, where the Catholic Church has but one doctrine. Yet in my research, there are at least that many factions within the Catholic Church. The only real difference is that they just don’t change the name on the door. NOTE: This was simply used as an illustration and is not intended to elicit a religious debate. Please leave that for another venue.
The real problem, as I perceive it, is that we’ve elected too many self-serving moderates. By moderate, I don’t mean someone whose political philosophy is somewhere in the middle, as though such a place existed. Moderates today, are those that stand for nothing. They go whichever what the current political wind is blowing. Their only allegiance is to themselves, and to retain their position of power. It is these moderates that I want nothing to do with, and whom the Rockefeller Republicans believe is the answer to regaining the majority. The problem is, even if they do join after you kick out the social conservatives, they’ll only stay with you as long as it is in their benefit to do so. As soon as the other side offers them more of what they want, they’ll be gone as quickly as they came.
I find it fascinating that the party of hawks seems to know nothing of the heart and mind of the typical soldier. The true soldier knows three things: Duty, Honor, and Country. It is the soldier that supports the cause of his Country if even if it means giving up his own life. His duty compels him to risk his life to save others, and he will never do something dishonorable. Have you even wondered why most soldiers don’t self-identify with the Republican Party even though most vote for their representatives? It is because too many in both parties all to often act in a dishonorable manner, and there is nothing more offensive to them. You can see this in how they respond to their leader. Just look at their reaction to President Bush vs. that of President Obama. The first is one of adoration and support, the latter is one of indifference. For those that don’t know, hate is not the opposite of love, rather indifference is. Would that we could commit to our cause in even a shadow of the manner that they commit themselves to theirs.
Similarly, many of our current crop of Republican leaders are utter failures at the art of negotiation. They fail to realize that you must always negotiate from a position of strength. For six years, from 2000 to 2006, our Republican leaders gave in to the demands of the weaker party, and spent the rest of their time pandering to themselves trying to solidify their own positions of power. Our President was complicit in this by not holding this behavior in check. So instead of passing laws that would protect freedom and life, they simply grew the government, decreasing that freedom.
Now that they they’ve been marginalized because they failed to lead and gain our trust, they want to further erode that trust by giving in and supporting the policies of the other side. They mean to give them cover when those policies fail, removing what little trust is left. The Republican House members moved this past week to regain a little of that trust by refusing to sign on to a bill that will increase the government’s reach like never before. It remains to be seen whether the Senate members will follow suit, or sell their souls once again for the scraps the Democrats will let fall off the table at their whim. Now is not the time to negotiate with Democrats. They must stand firm and support the foundational principles of the Republican Party. If they don’t, we must replace them with ones that will.
The social conservatives are wrong to think they haven’t gained anything in recent years. They’ve gained much, even if not everything they want. That’s what happens in a coalition. You make your gains when you can, while also working for what’s important for other parts of the coalition. They’re also wrong to think fiscal issues aren’t about life. Small government fiscal conservatism is also all about life. It’s about the freedom of those with less to have the opportunity to improve their lot in life. It is that concept which is unique to our system of government as envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Issues of Life are most certainly about preservation, but are also just as much about the ability to improve our own, and our children’s quality of life. Social conservatives would do well to consider that and temper some of their Populist tendencies which actually impair that ability.
The fiscal conservatives are wrong to think that our problems are due to the pro-life platform of our Party. It is the moral foundation which makes us who we are. Were we to abandon these principles, we would cease to be who we are and lose our very soul. From a practical standpoint, were you successful in changing the platform and removing the strong pro-life principles, you would marginalize yourselves such that you’d look more like one of our current 3rd parties than one of the largest. Social conservative Republicans would simply create a new coalition with pro-life Democrats in a new Populist Party. What we would then have is two parties that want government to control our lives, only in different ways.
The coalition we have now I believe is the best one. It contains the best of who we are in America, and offers the greatest hope for protecting the life and freedom of us all. We simply need to hold true to our principles while at the same time reaching out to other groups that share some of them and work together where we can. We must work together, and hold our elected leaders accountable, realizing we won’t always get everything we want, but will get what is most important to us. It is only then that we will again see success, and once again bring life and freedom to our great nation.