A Few Things We can Learn from Democrats
Not with our Substance, but with our Approach
Rush just said that the Democratic Party is made up of a whole bunch of coalitions that are united by support for big government. He is right. Democrats include the gay rights crowd, environmentalists, African Americans, about half of rich people who live in blue states (such as Connecticut and California), the urban poor, the marijuana legalization crowd, academics, union workers, and more.
We with the GOP should focus on forming coalitions between many different groups out there that are ripe for the picking. But I fear that too many people in our party have a tone about them that drives people away more than it draws people in. Here are a couple of examples.
Rush, despite the many good things he does in the conservative moment, often puts a sort of target on Republicans’ backs who defect from the hardcore ideological right wing. For example, during the 2012 presidential primaries, when Mitt stated that he believes global warming exists and that humans contribute to it, I heard Rush say, “Bye bye nomination.” This is not an isolated incident, nor is it good. Look back at the first paragraph. Do you think this tone brings people into the conservative movement or drives them away? I think the answer is the latter. In other words, conservative Republicans do not have to rail against anyone and everyone who doesn’t think global warming is a conspiracy.
Additionally, we do not benefit from railing against Republican members of Congress who show interest in taking a deal to seriously (and I mean seriously, because I know cuts are usually superficial) cut spending in exchange for closing loopholes or even raising the top rate. Are these things Republicans would do if we had control of both the Presidency and Congress as we did from 2000 to 2006? Of course not. Of course not. But conservatives should not be stuck in one time or place on the issues. We should be pragmatic and adapt even when doing so isn’t ideologically ideal for us. And we should try to get get as many conservative principles included in fiscal deals as we can, rather than going for all or nothing.
I’ll give an example of this in current context. I live in Georgia, and our Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss has been in hot water recently with the right for expressing his willingness to close loopholes or raise rates to get a deal. There is nothing wrong with Saxby doing that. However, Saxby started his dialogue on the fiscal cliff by failing to emphasize that the only way he would agree to tax hikes is if they were coupled with legitimate spending cuts. Is this grounds for kicking him out via the primary in favor of someone like Congressman Tom Price? Honestly, Saxby hasn’t committed a huge crime with these statements, but I and other conservatives definitely prefer a Senator who sticks to spending cuts as his starting point in fiscal cliff talks.
Another thing we conservatives have room for improvement on is our rhetoric toward minorities and welfare recipients. I will focus on immigrants here: Stop referring to people who are here illegally as illegal aliens. Stop it. No one decides their vote on how Republicans refer to people here illegally, and no one will abstain from voting if we stop calling millions of people illegal aliens. Are they illegals? Of course they are. But there is no benefit from taking an antagonistic attitude toward them. I have heard a handful of Hispanics on Fox News and other outlets bemoan the ‘illegal alien’ tag and say it keeps even citizen Hispanics from voting Republican. I say we should remove it from our vocabulary. Hispanics are one of the most family-oriented ethnic groups just as Republicans are the most family-oriented political party. We can get half or more of the Hispanic vote in the future, but we must begin by being compassionate toward them and their relatives.
In my mind, the number one priority right now for conservatives ought to be fiscal responsibility. Lower spending. Responsible regulation decreases. If we had the White House and the Senate, maintain tax rates. Avoid unnecessary wars. Get government out of the way of small business as much as reasonably possible to help with economic jobs and getting people off welfare. Yes. We stand for these things. But we shouldn’t try to destroy Republicans who don’t adhere 100% to conservative doctrine. By definition, that would decrease Republican turnout. Let’s expand the tent. Let’s avoid shunning different opinions. Let’s take a compassionate tone toward the needy (as Mitt did a pretty poor job at, hence his 47% comment). I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. Let’s respect each other and be civil and generally welcoming. If we avoid being political absolutists, I think outsiders would feel more comfortable stepping into the Republican tent.