Why Moderates are Wrong: Rebranding the GOP

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 4.26.58 PMLately, a lot of the media have been claiming that the GOP needs to become ‘more moderate’. We need to embrace big government, Keynesian stimulus, and higher taxes; and stop being ‘fringe’.

There’s just one problem with that: We already have a liberal party in Washington. You may have heard of them.

Our country faces big questions in the coming years. What is the proper size of government?  Is health care a right, and if so should the government force us to buy it?  Should government only protect our rights, or focus on income redistribution?

These are questions that we as a nation must grapple with, and we as the GOP have a moral imperative to offer voters a legitimate choice on these subjects. A country whose only two partiers are those of big-government and bigger-government is a country that disenfranchises those millions of citizens who want truly small government.

This is not to say that the GOP needs to be the party of opposition. We shouldn’t mindlessly oppose something just because Democrats champion it; and indeed, on some issues we need to recognize that Democrats have the right of it. Gay marriage, for example, is a right. You are either born gay or you’re not, and those born gay should have the same right—not just to marry, but to marry the romantic love of your life—that straight people already enjoy. The GOP is on the wrong side of history on this one, and when we tell people who they can and can’t spend their lives with, we risk alienating people who otherwise agree with our small-government policy. Among the coveted youth, 79% support gay marriage.

A second area we would do well to evolve in is foreign policy. The party of small-government should not be the party of endless war. Again, we already have a pro-war party. It is the party of FDR, the party of Wilson; the party that, just or not, got us into two World Wars, increased the deficit 13-fold, and expanded our operations into Libya. It is the party that supports drone strikes on US citizens. Of course, not all the sins of war are on one side. But we should eschew the interventionism of Reagan and George W. Bush, where Republicans and Democrats seem to compete for the neocon vote. As small-government conservatives, we should stand true to our principles and avoid the sort of nation-building abroad that has already cost $3.2 Trillion.  Just as important, we should offer voters a genuine choice between the interventionist policies Obama seems to be embracing, and a legitimate Constitutional foreign policy.

The fact is that most of our issues have two sides. Keynesian or Austrian? Pro-choice or pro-life? More guns or less guns; more regulation or less; a government that champions the free market or one that redistributes wealth?  The GOP needs to become the party that offers voters a legitimate choice on these issues.  In many ways, that means we need to become more conservative.  We need to become Austrian economists and true champions of small government.

If the GOP simply becomes the party of slightly-less-big government, we will have sold out our principles. More importantly, we will have sold out millions of citizens who want elections to mean a true choice between competing ideologies.

But if we embrace true constitutional conservatism, we can pick up legions of voters in Democratic strongholds. If we absolve ourselves of the neocons and Pat Robertsons of the GOP, we can excite a generation of young people and once more become the party ascendant.

We have a moral obligation to offer voters a genuine choice opposed to the  party. We have a moral obligation to stand for small government and free trade instead of bombs. And in this case, which is so rare in Washington, what is morally right is also what will win us elections.

We’ve tried the Mitt Romney, John McCain, big-government tax-and-bomb approach. It failed. Let’s give Constitutional conservatism a try.

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8 thoughts on “Why Moderates are Wrong: Rebranding the GOP

  1. DanManEllen

    I know this cliche, but the GOP is also going to have to figure out stop hating on Latinos. To an extent they are doing that, like with the current embrace of immigration reform.

    Reply
  2. julianlibertarian Post author

    Absolutely. I left that out because I think it’s being talked about a lot already, albeit for the wrong reasons (the GOP is now hopping on the immigration bandwagon to improve their electoral math). Still, I have tepid hopes the Gang of 8 and Obama can make some real progress on the issue. I would have high hopes, but it’s Congress….

    Reply
    1. julianlibertarian Post author

      Admittedly, Romney or McCain might make Obama look tame. There is a strong neo-con element in the GOP as of now. But you’ll notice that I attacked them, and said the way forward for the GOP is to prune that particular branch. I am not defending the GOP, simply pointing out that the GOP’s more hawkish elements might find a better home among the Democrats. The neocons’ defense of Obama indicates that some are already realizing this.

      To your claim about what Democrats stand for: the rank-and-file may stand for social justice and non-interventionism. Their party platform may even preach it. But when Democrats seize the presidency, the record of the 20th century is littered with examples of their military interventionism.

      Reply
      1. julianlibertarian Post author

        As to the future of the GOP: actually, a lot of people in and out of the GOP claim that the way forward is to be more moderate fiscally. I gave one example in the first article I linked to in my blog. Another would be Paul Krugman, who would be happier if Republicans simply nibbled around the edges of big government instead of proposing real cuts. A third would be Karl Rove, who actually started a PAC to beat fiscal conservative candidates in the primaries.

        I have heard several strategists discuss the need for the GOP to address an ethnically diverse 21st century America. They are right to some extent, but I don’t see the point of writing about something that’s already so mainstream the article writes itself. I see the GOP becoming competitive again by embracing a second strategy as well. A lot of true fiscal conservatives and anti-interventionists stayed home on election day, voted Gary Johnson, or voted for Obama because he’s not as terrible abroad as Romney would have been. By nominating a true fiscal conservative and anti-interventionist, I think the GOP can make up the votes and forge a winning presidential coalition in 2016.

  3. Thom A

    I take issue with several points. To begin with, to label the Democrats as tax-and-bomb is flat out offensive and a mischaracterization of the principals of the Democratic party. It’s derivative of the tax-and-spend label that the Republicans used for many years against the Democrats, which itself was inaccurate. The Republicans during the Bush II years exploded the deficit with two unfunded wars and tax cuts. They have always been more hawkish than the Democrats, more prone toward saber-rattling and military intervention than the Dems.
    The Democratic party is centered around the principals of social justice – equal rights whether it comes to employment, voting, marriage, or wages. The fact that drones are being used more at this time by the CIA and military is independent of which party is in the White House. Had McCain or Romney won, do you think they would be using them any less? Far from it.
    When people, including Republicans and their strategists, suggest that their party needs to make adjustments, they are referring to getting out of the mindset that American values of the 1950s should be our target. The Republicans lost because they hold onto antiquated white male-centric ideas about women, their right to choose, immigration, gays, and to a minor extent trickle-down tax policies that have never ever worked. It’s that simple. They can still talk small government all they want (while, by the way, hypocritically defending massive military spending). They just need to get with where the American people are at – a much more diverse fabric of ethnic groups and cultures than we had 50 years ago.

    Reply
    1. julianlibertarian Post author

      First up, I apologize for using the phrase tax-and-bomb to describe the entire Democratic Party; that’s painting with too broad a brush. Rank-and-file Democrats often exhibit anti-war tendencies, for example 1960s anti-draft riots. But Democratic presidents from Wilson to Obama—the leaders of the party—have repeatedly embraced muscular military intervention, “tax and bomb” policies. Wilson pushed the US into WWI, probably the most useless and destructive war of the 20th century. FDR allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor in order to push the US into World War II. Truman entered the Korean War. He also dropped two atomic bombs in order to intimidate the USSR and start the Cold War from a position of strength, according to my HS US History class. Killing 240,000 Japanese civilians to send a message to the USSR is something even Bush Jr. might quail at.

      Kennedy entered, and LBJ hugely escalated, the Vietnam War. As I’m sure you know, the Vietnam War dwarfed Iraq and Afghanistan; at its peak, there were over half a million US troops in Vietnam, compared to only 170,000 in Iraq and 66,000 in Afghanistan. Clinton was relatively peaceful, but even he bombed Kosovo.

      Obama has continued this legacy and is even more of a military interventionist than was Bush. He launched drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The total casualties so far are 4,700. Obama also launched operations in Libya, and roughly doubled the size of our presence in Afghanistan—from 38k to 66k. His promise to bring home 34k troops from Afghanistan, far from ending the war, actually brings our presence down to Bush-era levels.

      Reply
      1. julianlibertarian Post author

        We can’t forget that Bush Jr. adopted a neocon foreign policy, but he was an outlier. Primarily, as West Wing recognized, “Republicans want a big military and don’t want to use it. Democrats want a small military and want to send it everywhere”.

        With the exception of Bush Jr., Republicans tend to talk tough but fight less. They might spend their campaigns ratting their sabers, but Democratic presidents are the ones more likely to draw the saber. Obama has done this to such an extent that many neocons publicly praise him. Lindsay Graham asked fellow Republicans to protect Obama from the antiwar and libertarian crowd. Dick Cheney praised Obama’s foreign policy, at least until he nominated Republican former senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. That nomination was viewed as a sign of weakness.

        Admittedly, Republicans have not been foreign policy doves. But, while Reagan spent aggressively to win the Cold War and Bush Sr. launched the Gulf War, these man cannot compare with FDR, LBJ, Truman, Wilson, or Obama.

  4. haileyhilliard290

    Great blog topic Julian! I’d like to touch on the issue of rebranding the GOP’s approach to gay marriage. I’m attempting to recommend some of the same reforms you champion above, and always face major resistance from old-world thinkers of the GOP, not their youth following. The problem with their inability to budge on this issue (apart from that fact that it is just plain wrong to treat someone differently based on sexual preference. It’s a human right to choose!!), is that our founding fathers succeeded from mother England SPECIFICALLY to lessen the stronghold of big government regulation. They wanted more independence and freedoms, and thus the original sentiments that bore the Republican party were filled with ideals that spoke of limited government as it’s main focus of reform. And yet, all of the tactics demonstrated by the party over the last 20+ years (I figure that’s about how long it’s taken the Republican brand to establish themselves as bigots and homophobes) has suggested that the party has lost sight of it’s original purpose: less government=more freedom.

    Their failure to see this fundamental problem with the gay marriage argument is something that seems to elude them until a young person like you or I point out it’s flaw. I’ve discovered that those who continue to protect gay marriage as a “Republican institution/cause” are either getting paid big money, or are religious fanatics/”crazies” who have enough of a fucked up personal past that they actually believe the delusion that people who are different from them are evil enough to deserve less human rights than they enjoy. I often find that the social issues in which the Republicans have lost their message, are easily corrected with the argument that Republicans champion less government regulation, not more. If we truly wanted to drive this issue home, a real Republican platform based on historical fundamentalism would champion ZERO government marriage regulation for ANYONE, gay or straight.

    Reply

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