Monday, November 12, 2012

Redefining the Republicans?

As we all know, President Obama won re-election and Democrats solidified their majority in the Senate, with the House of Representatives still Republican dominant.  And as much as I dislike politics, I couldn't help but read some post-election commentaries, such as this, "Christian Right Fails to Sway Voters on Issues."

The current Republican party is so far to their end of the extreme it's no wonder that they failed to win the election.  This got me thinking.  What is meant by "conservative" and what is meant by "traditional?"  These in and of themselves aren't sinister terms that should be tabooed.  Indeed, many people may consider themselves conservative or traditional but still be alienated by the current gestalt of the Republicans.

I've read that Republicans tend to favor market forces and believe in individual responsibility.  These are things that many people can rally behind.  They are less in favor of government hand-outs and give-me's, and as such are likely to be more restrictive on social safety nets for the poor or disenfranchised.  Still people can rally behind that notion when they believe they shouldn't "rely" on the government to pull themselves up or have seen others abuse the system.

Republicans generally are in favor of less taxes on (preferably) everyone, but the current Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy to a fault. Wealth is really a matter of perspective.  How much does one need to live comfortably?  How much does one need to enjoy life?  Yes, money is hard-earned, but taxes exist for a reason and without them, many things in society would simply cease to function.

Health Care
Republicans are united against "Obamacare."  Fine, I get that.  It's not a perfect bill.  But if you're going to attempt to repeal it, you better have a viable alternative ready to go as soon as it's gone, because the status quo isn't benefiting anyone.  Is health care a right?  Is it a basic right?  A civil right?  Is it a privilege?  Is access to health care a right?  These are philosophical questions that our society must determine.

Alright, Republicans are generally anti-abortion.  Fine.  But I take issue when they say they're "pro-life."  They are not pro-life.  If you're going to oppose abortion, you better set up a support system for the children and mothers whose lives are affected.  If you're going to oppose abortion, you must make it okay for a single mom without a high school degree to give birth.  This takes investment, time, infrastructure, and of course money.  If you're truly pro-life, you'd campaign to have all kids vaccinated.  You'd campaign to have every child be in programs such as Head Start and Birth to Three.  You'd campaign to help single parents find jobs or tax credits for education.  You'd campaign to offer prenatal care at Planned Parenthood, not cut its funding across the board.  This is truly pro-life.  But it all costs money, and where does that come from?  Taxes.

Republicans are pro-family.  But really, aren't we all?  Their problem is that they haven't kept up with what a "family" can be these days.  Yes, a family may be the nuclear family of parents and children.  But it can also be an extended family, where one lives with aunts, uncles, and/or grandparents too.  It can be a single parent home.  It can be a gay or lesbian couple.  All studies suggest that it matters less what kind of structure the family consists of, and more the love and care provided by that family.

Republicans are against LGBT rights at large, but particularly gay marriage.  It doesn't hold much water with me from a legal perspective.  There is a difference between a civil marriage and a religious marriage.  Churches and other places of worship may refuse to consecrate a gay marriage, but that doesn't mean that the state should refuse as well.  In America where we profess to be open, accepting, and tolerant of all religions - where we believe in separation of church and state - where is all that here?  The same arguments made against gay marriage is exactly the same arguments made against interracial marriage several decades ago.

The Republican party has a dearth of minority representation, and it has so far made little to no attempt to attract minorities.  It's really a shame.  Many African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latino-Americans likely agree with the Republican's economic stances and their sentiments about family.  Yet the Republicans have managed to alienate all of these groups.  Immigration reform, if done well, would begin to sway some Asians and particularly Latinos to the Republicans.

Republicans should be truer to the word "conservative" when it comes to environment.  The US has one of the greatest natural resources on the planet, and while it's something that we should tap into, it's also something that we should protect and cherish.  Investment into alternative energy would definitely open up job opportunities and drive innovation.

There's a distinctly anti-education sentiment in the Republican party these days.  I do believe everyone should have the opportunity to attend college/university if so inclined.  I do believe we should invest in recruiting more people to become teachers, and to hold schools accountable (to a degree, this a very complex topic sufficient for its own post).  Teachers and their unions shouldn't be made out to be the bad guys.  It's not easy being a teacher.  If the Republicans don't do something to advance education, the US will continue to slide further and further behind.

Anyway, this post is long enough.  The point I wanted to make is that the Republican party, at its core and true to its moderate members, is not a bad thing.  But they've drifted so far from where they should be that they've become hypocritical.  Perhaps this election has kicked their butts sufficiently to see that what they're doing isn't working and will never work.

And this is a nice article to end on, "The Great Experiment."