The GOP forgets its roots

The GOP forgets its roots

August 28th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

"With a core belief in the primacy of individuals, the Republican Party, since its inception, has been at the forefront of the fight for individuals' rights in opposition to a large, intrusive government."

That clear declaration, found on the "Our History" section of the Republican National Committee's website, is the closest thing the 2012 version of the Grand Old Party has to a mission statement. It encapsulates what the party has been for a century and a half, and outlines how the party will be most successful today.

To the extent that the statement functions to guide the Republican Party, it couldn't be much more perfect.

That one sentence provides Republicans with three guiding questions to determine if a policy proposal is in line with Republican values, namely:

1) Does it allow individuals to make decisions about the issues that impact their lives and the lives of their family?

2) Does it protect individual rights?

3) Does it reduce the size and scope of government?

From that simple set of questions, it's easy to determine what Republicans should support and oppose. For example, universal government-run health care fails on all three points since it reduces individual responsibility, is not a right by any reasonable standard and increases the role of government. Thus, it should be opposed by Republicans.

On the other hand, efforts to increase school choice empower families with more choice and authority regarding how their children are educated, and they diminish government's ability to dictate a child's education. Republicans, therefore, should embrace policy proposals that further school choice options.

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Unfortunately, when it came time to develop their platform, the GOP strayed far from this commonsense method to determine what constitutes public policy rooted in Republican values. Instead, they cheated off the Democrat's playbook, stealing their one and only trick, "Try to pander to as many different constituencies as possible, damn the consequences."

For years, Democrats have patched together disparate groups to form their base, attempting to bond them together by one unifying adhesive: taxpayers' money -- and lots of it.

Unlike Democrats, Republicans traditionally have not stooped to bribing interest groups with federal handouts to win support. Instead, the GOP has relied on principles and values that the overwhelming majority of Americans can agree on -- namely the belief in limited, responsible government -- to draw voters to support Republican candidates.

This year's Republican platform apparently throws unifying principles out the window in favor of giving everyone -- from Christian extremists, to big government conservatives, to libertarians -- a little something.

That, of course, means that every subgroup under the Republicans' big tent ultimately will be unhappy with much of the platform.

In the end, it seems the only unifying theme for the various component pieces of the Republican base is that they all dislike President Obama. As bad as Obama is, that is a pathetic uniting theme for a party that has united so many for so long behind the noble pursuit of self-governance.

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In glancing at the Republican platform, a number of planks stand out as positions that would not jibe with the Republican mission of believing "in the primacy of individuals" and fighting "for individuals' rights in opposition to a large, intrusive government."

For example, the focus of traditional marriage in the Republican Party platform is disconcerting since it allows government to prevent millions of Americans from making decisions about what is best for them and actively suppresses an individual right.

If the leaders in charge of drafting the platform compared their stance on marriage to their party's mission statement, they would find that the focus on preventing gay marriage doesn't align with traditional Republican values. Such a comparison may prompt the question, "why is government in the business of regulating marriage, anyway?"

The Republican platform also encourages the government to manipulate the tax code to encourage adoption. Every child deserves to grow up in a loving home that can nurture and provide for him or her. Additionally, most sensible people would prefer more adoptions and fewer abortions. But, is it the government's role to entice people to adopt children by making it a sweeter financial deal? Not according to traditional Republican principles.

After spending hundreds and hundreds of words rightfully denouncing Obamacare and demanding its repeal, the platform almost immediately calls for the government to throw more tax dollars at health care research. Increasing the government's role in health research, so long as there is a private market that benefits from -- and is willing to support -- the sector, unnecessarily increases the authority of government while reducing the amount of money taxpayers have in their wallets to support the initiatives they believe in. Again, this is clearly in opposition to the GOP's mission.

Finally, the Republican platform includes an entire chapter titled "Making the Internet Family-Friendly." The section attacks Internet gambling, pornography and "obscenity." By any traditional understanding of Republican values, it is not appropriate to empower the government to restrict what is available online. Limiting what responsible adults are allowed to do with the Internet is no better than Obamacare when compared to the standards of the Republican Party mission. It fails by every measure.

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It's too bad that the Republican Party chose to unveil a sprawling platform that expands government powers to placate its various constituencies. In doing so, it actually divided Republicans into dozens of factions that support only a portion of the platform and abhor the rest.

The goal of the Republican Party platform and, more importantly, the party as a whole, should be to champion principles that are in line with traditional party values and are shared by the widest number of people. The 2012 GOP platform fails thoroughly. Far too many of the recommendations in the platform actually transfer power from individuals to the government, trample individual rights and increase the role of the government in the lives of Americans.

The Republican Party was built on the notion that America works best when people, not government, are empowered to make decisions about their own lives. Unfortunately, GOP leaders drafted a platform that foolishly abandons the party's core beliefs. Republicans would have been much better served if the platform was simplified to focus on the principles that have been the party's foundation for generations -- the ideas that unite us all as Americans.