Republicans, conservatives, Tea Party members are angry, dissatisfied, disgusted Americans and the Republican Party Presidential Primary process highlights their appeal to the lowest instincts in Republican voters. The party appeals to anger, fear, racial and ethnic prejudice, and in turn amplify those tendencies in both the Republican base and especially the candidates it puts forward for the presidency and the Congress and in statehouses and governor’s chairs all over the nation. We deserve better from them.
The Nation’s and MSNBC’s Elizabeth Harris Perry has written, and just this week in her brand new television weekend show, has correctly pointed out that our country needs a strong and effective Republican Party to be paired with an equally strong and effective Democratic Party. She’s right. That is she is correct. Let’s look at where the Republican Party is at and where they could be in order to offer the kind of politics the nation needs. Of course they must abandon the appeal to anger, fear, and prejudice. It does mobilize their base of support, but it appeals to the worst in those supporters and not their best.
The Abortion Issue: The Pro-life stand of Rick Santorum and the Republican Party is not as many liberals think just something that need concern a narrow group of conservatives. It is something that is among the greatest moral questions the nation faces at this very moment.
Why not proclaim a pro-life stand from conception through death? The Catholic Church at least is consistent here, they work very hard to help the poor and not just show concern for the unborn. The Republican Party has a very strong conservative protestant component that is light years behind. This would require conservatives to embrace a strong social investment in the care of the children born of women who take babies to term rather than abort them. It means much greater concern and social investment in children as they grow up and seeing to it that they do not live in poverty. It means women’s health and well-being must truly come to center stage along with reducing abortions in the United States. Conservatives have a kind of obsession that might be defined as “fetus envy” to the exclusion of what happens to real people once they are out of the womb and moving through life.
Jobs: The answer of the Republican Party on the jobs front is to give the upper two percent of income earners in the United States even more money via tax reductions and to enrich large corporations that increasingly have less interest in the economic well-being of the nation-state known as the United States. Americans of all political loyalties must be able to see a direct connection between government policy and the behavior of business in actually creating more jobs. And those jobs have to be family-supporting jobs above and not below the poverty line. Democrats have proposed improvements in infrastructure and in research and manufacturing that are real, practical, and achievable. We need some of the same kinds of options from Republicans. Simply further enriching the already wealthy and protecting them within the “halo” of “Job Creators” when the return in terms of jobs created from those same people has been pitifully inadequate will not cut it.
The Deficit: This is the Republicans strongest issue. But Congressional Republicans and Rick Santorum the new non-Romney front runner is talking about nothing but the contraception and abortion issues. Republicans should not be a theocratic party. Religious freedom means being free from government telling you what your faith or lack thereof must conform to. Real cuts in spending have been proposed by both parties. Whatever we do, cutting real Federal spending will be central to budgetary policy after 2012. But the Republican refusal to increase taxes modestly to help achieve a reduction in the deficit goes against the views of an overwhelming majority of economists. It also flies in the face of reality. Forget partisanship here. Republicans could say that they will make deeper cuts in the deficit but that like Clinton’s approach, which many Republicans supported in the early 1990’s in bi-partisan fashion, the combination of debt reduction through cuts and tax increases that are modest and predictable can lead to the prosperity of the 1990’s yet again. Clinton’s policy was bi-partisan. Republicans would steal a march on Democrats if they reclaimed their part in that success.
Foreign Policy: Here a simple call for a bi-partisan foreign policy that continues to protect the American people from acts of terror and reaches out to the increasingly influential former Third World on the Pacific Rim and in Latin America and Africa with common sense and real diplomatic dexterity would do us all good. Here the influence of Obama, Ron Paul, John Huntsman, and the fine work of Hillary Clinton needs further thought and attention.
Defense: Republicans will not admit it, but Barack Obama has behaved just like they would want a conservative president they elected to behave in this area. He went out and saw to it that efforts to kill Osama bin Laden continued and accomplished the task. Drone strikes and small military operations on the ground in many places including Pakistan, and the Arab Gulf States have eliminated both the first tier and most of the second tier of the El Qaeda leadership. The Defense Department is on track to modernize even further the very best weapons systems in the world for the use of our armed forces. Here too, a bi-partisan approach is needed by both a second term Obama Administration and an incoming first Republican administration.
The Social Safety Net: Republicans need to see that in reality, Social Security is easily secured for all time to come by simply extending the cap on contributions beyond the current hundred thousand dollar threshold. The biggest thing conservatives could do would be to both argue for doctors to better police themselves and for what has been called ‘defensive medicine” to be addressed to cut the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. The Republican base likes and wants these programs. This is not big government to them. A lot of the Democrats’ advantage here is that they defend what people like. Rather than taking a hatchet to Medicare like Paul Ryan wants to, let’s see the party assist doctors in subsidizing medical school for those that need it, and protecting them better from the number of lawsuits that make them run far too many tests routinely then required, thus ballooning the cost of delivering healthcare. Remember too, that Social Security and Medicare are entitlements that working Americans pay into all their lives. It’s not part of the Fox News ‘dependency culture’ that arguably may exist where strong families do not elsewhere.
Race and Ethnicity in America: The Republican Party has to attract more people of color to its ranks. Doing it by putting a few people in high profile areas is not enough. In 2012 it is becoming increasingly clear that the party is acting like its 1950 and being a party of middle aged and older white men is sufficient for the nation. Embracing immigration both legal and undocumented and putting forward alternative policies to Democrats that directly and tangibly assist blacks and address their fundamental concerns as they themselves in large groups define them (hello there is an NAACP and Urban League out there) will make the party a winner and the nation a winner as the Twenty-first century moves forward.
Can conservatives, the Tea Party, the Republican Party move this deftly and with this kind of vision and flexibility in a new century? So far they have not. And it does not look like they are moving in these directions any time soon. That’s great news for President Obama in his re-election campaign, the Democratic Party, and liberal desires to see their adversaries thumped. Nevertheless, any combination of a failure of the Republican Party to move in these new directions in coming years or continue to win like they did in 2010 by appealing to the worst that is in us: our angers, fears, and prejudices, will not be good for the American nation as a whole.
Meanwhile, there are liberals, Democrats, people of color, women, men in touch with their nurturant selves’, and social justice people of faith out there. We think and wish to act with this empathy, hope, vision, and flexibility. Please join us.