01 Aug The Republican Party and Our Last Best Hope
It has become extremely trendy in certain circles that I either am involved with (or can see just over the fence) to blast the GOP for its recent sins, and even more so, to cynically doubt the impact the party will end up having in the present conflict. There is so much validity to much of what these doubters have to say that I do not have the luxury of dismissing it all out of hand. Some of the consistently “down on the GOP” folks probably are guilty of permanent pessimism, and would surely find significant fault with the founding fathers as well (I am reminded of those at LewRockwell.com who called the Constitution a “statist document”). But most of them are simply right: the GOP spent the bulk of this millennium’s first decade making a mockery of conservatism, and it is not going to be easy for these folks to come back in the fold of Republicanism. “We won’t get fooled again.”
I sympathize with their position, still being shell-shocked by the prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind legislation of the George W. Bush era. Many of the Republican-haters also want to throw the Afghanistan and Iraq wars into the list of GOP iniquities, but I do not. However, those disagreements notwithstanding, there is a basic tension that has to be addressed: How do those who love limited government, and believe in the values of our nation’s founding, reconcile themselves to the past, present, and future Republican party?
The issue of the 2000-2008 GOP is an easy one: You don’t reconcile yourself to it. It was an atrocity. On a Presidential level, it should not be too difficult to thank God for John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and call it a day. Congressionally, there is virtually nothing to be thankful for (even the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003 lacked the political will to actually be made permanent, despite the existence of the votes to do so, creating this 2010 debacle that will be the largest tax increase in history). But the present GOP is a different story, and I am not sure what the benefit is in denying it. Not a single House Republican voted for the stimulus bill. The Pelosi-House had to insult heaven and hell to get the ObamaCare perversion passed. And both House and Senate leadership have done a wonderful job (within the political context they presently find themselves in – a problem of their own making) in holding this Obama-Pelosi-Reid disaster in check. For the most part, Republicans always seem to be more Republican when they don’t have any power, and that is most unfortunate. But the Republican-bashers on the right need to recognize the good for what it is, and I divide it into two sets: (1) The GOP leaders who are just plain good (Mike Pence, Michelle Bachman, Ed Royce, Jim DeMint, John Thune, Tom Coburn, Jon Kyl, and many others); and (2) The GOP leaders who are totally unreliable, but are (at least now) acting good now. That is the vast majority of them. So this leads me to my real point: Reconciling ourselves with the GOP future.
It is not as complicated for me as many are making it. I believe this is a matter of managing expectations. I have already said what I want to about the recent past as well as the present. But when it comes to what can be expected of a future GOP presence in the House and the Senate, I can not imagine why we would expect them to be anything less than an extremely effective thorn in the side of the aforementioned Obama-Pelosi-Reid unholy trinity, and anything more than that same effective thorn. They will not restore the Constitution to its rightful place. And a GOP House majority will not come close to solving all of America’s problems. In the here and now, though, it is the unambiguous superior choice. When I refer to managing expectations, I have to wonder what people are expecting when they vote, and who the real statists are among us. I do not expect the politicians I support to do anything more than try to keep the disaster from getting worse. It is incurable in Washington D.C. The disaster I refer to is an idolatrous culture that has worshipped at the feet of the state. This is not a political problem, and it is not the fault of politicians (either on the Republican side, or the Democratic side). The culture is in a state of disaster both morally and ideologically. I can understand why the Republican-haters take the position that they do if the expectation were that the Republicans were going to save the culture. But they are not going to, and they couldn’t do so if they wanted to.
More or less we are in a very long-term paradigm where both political parties go back and forth doing much of the same thing. The Republican party is far less likely to accelerate the slide into Euro-socialism, but both parties are still light years away from the limited government world of personal responsibility our founders envisioned. And based on what I observe of cultural responsibility, perhaps this is to be expected. I hope for a Congress that can pass some good legislation in the decades I have left on planet earth. Much more importantly, I hope for a Congress that can block all kinds of atrocious legislation that is sure to be presented in the years and decades to come. And that is pretty much it. The transcendental improvement I work for and pray for in this great country is going to be a cause of political change, but not an effect of it. We have our chicken and egg all mixed up, and it is time we get it straight. Culture trumps politics, and it always will. The present conflict begs for us to be politically involved, to force our leaders to quit redistributing wealth, to seek less burdensome tax policy, and to beg Washington D.C. to get out of the way. We should all do that, and my personal conviction is that for the most part this is best done with Republican options at this point in time.
But the progress we ought to be looking for in a multi-generational context is not going to come from this GOP party. Some of the better congressional Republicans are going to do really good things, and some of the worst ones may end up disappointing. All of it is fleeting. A society that yearns for freedom is the need of the hour; not merely politicians that sometimes have a sort of okay idea of what it is. We have spent 100 years in a love affair with a school system that has almost choked off any semblance of what freedom means. If I could hand-select every single elected official in the Congress tomorrow, OR I could wave a wand and see a private school system become the predominant means of educating our children, I would not even hesitate for a split second to choose the latter over the former. (As an aside, I have often said that I can sort of cope when Christians put their kids in the public school system; it is when conservative Christians do it that I get a bit mystified; but I digress).
My point is not to say that a better educational system is the last best hope, and a Republican Congress is not. My point is that no one single thing represents the remedy to culture’s woes – especially a change in the partisan affiliation of our Congressional representation. If a Republican is one of those Specter-Snowe-Collins turkeys, then don’t vote for them. Let a Democrat beat the true RINO’s. Who cares? We are no worse off. But if you have a decent Republican to vote for, and the current climate calls for some restraint on an ideological narcissist President who has apparently gone mad with my checkbook, then for pete’s sake, knock off this GOP-bashing. It is silly. Just don’t set your expectation so high that you set yourself up for disappointment. The battle for the hearts and souls of men is not going to be won this November. This is a temporary deal that requires some temporary wisdom. The long term battle is anything but temporary, though, and it requires solutions far more important than any political party has ever been able to offer.
“The people wanted a King”, I Samuel says. For those of us who want a freedom that reflects the unalienable rights of men, a leadership that acknowledges its authority as coming from the consent of the governed, and even a voting population that has some idea what I just said, be patient. And be vigilant.