Thursday, November 13, 2014

GOP Needs a Philosophically Coherent Agenda

I’ve been around awhile—65 years. I’ve seen a lot of Republican electoral surges. Mostly, I’ve been disappointed. The only exception; the Reagan Republicans of the early 1980s. But even that faded. Rather than build on and correct the “Reaganomics” revolution, the GOP slipped back into me-too, country club land. The G.W. Bush era was a blatant leap to the Left.

Typically, Republican control has resulted in the consolidation of the welfare state advances scored by prior Democrat controlled legislatures. At best—with rare exceptions—Republican control only stalls the statist advance, and paves the way for another lurch to the Left.

I’m hopeful that this time will be different. One thing is certain: It won’t be, if the GOP takes the advice of former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Whitman urges, Republicans Must Put Forward Ideas After Big Wins.

Whitman correctly observes that the GOP cannot merely be anti-government or anti-Obama. It must put forward a positive policy agenda based on “our”—Republican—ideas.

But Whitman doesn’t hint at what those ideas are. More importantly, she offers no principles upon which those ideas should rest. Instead, she retreats into meaningless generalities:

I have been dismayed to watch just how polarized Washington has become in recent years - every issue that is discussed is done so from the political, rather than policy perspective.  I am not naïve to think that one midterm election's result will lead to greater political compromise – much less one midterm election that so clearly favored one party over the other.  But I remain hopeful that my party will lead well from their place of political strength – be willing to negotiate for the sake of ordinary Americans, and foster a policy discourse that shows our ideas are the right ones for the nation. The next two years can be a time of great policy achievement in the United States, and it all depends on how Republicans choose to lead.

“Political” vs. “policy perspective?” What about the philosophical perspective? Compromise? On what. To what end; “great policy achievement?” “Negotiate for the sake of ordinary Americans?” As opposed to whom; extraordinary Americans? If Republicans are to avoid “polarization”—i.e., fighting the Democrats on fundamental ideas—then what kind of leadership does that imply? What kind of ideas?

I left these comments:

It can’t be just about ideas. It must be about pro-liberty ideas. Republicans have always had some good ideas in this area; e.g. school choice in education; expanded health savings accounts and other free market reforms in healthcare; lower and flatter tax rates; deregulation. But Republicans need a focussed, philosophically coherent agenda based on a core principle. They need to sharply distinguish themselves from the Dems on terms that are clear and easy to grasp.

I suggest the Self-Reliant Society, as contrasted to the Democrats’ Dependency Society.

The Democrats common theme is: Whatever the problem (real or concocted), only government can solve it. If all Republicans are going to do is propose different ways for government to run our lives and solve our problems—like “universal health care” through “market-based” policies—then what’s the point of electing Republicans?

Everything the Democrats do or suggest moves Americans toward dependence on government. They only “compromise” if they can move the ball in their direction. Republicans should counter with a policy that whatever they do or propose must result in greater control for individuals over their own lives. Compromise, yes. But only so long as it results in more freedom for individuals to manage their affairs and solving their own problems.

The only alternative to the Democrats’ statism is individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. Stop obsessing over “polarization.” It’s time Americans had “a choice, not and echo.” Whatever the legislative policy, tie it to the Self-Reliance principle, and then trash Democrat opponents as pro-Dependency and anti-self-determination. Let voters know explicitly the broad direction the GOP wishes to move America.

Americans still respect self-reliance. Give them a choice—a Self-Reliant Society, or a Dependency Society—and I think the GOP could score big.

Related Reading:

Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It

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