Whigs of the 21st Century? Not Quite.

It was Brian Howey’s line “If the Republicans aren’t careful, they are going to become the Whigs of the 21st Century” that caught my eye yesterday and was probably the final nail that is inspiring this post. Now Brian’s opinion piece was on the immigration issue, but it’s been posts by Joel Harris at Circle City Pundit and “Inquiring Mind” at the Weird Pro blog that have tried to tackle the question of “What are Republicans to do this year?” that got the ball rolling for me.

I’ve been a Republican for as long as I have been able to vote and a vocal supporter of Republican policy, fiscal and social, even prior to that. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a policy wonk. I’ve worked campaigns, walked for candidates, done phone banks and actually worked for the Federal Government. I’ve done probably what most of you readers have done all in the name of promoting or being a part of the Republican message.

But like most of you, I’ve grown disenchanted with the way Republicans have handled Congress, the White House, our presidential candidates and issues in general, that, while I never question whether I’m a Republican or not, I start questioning whether I should take another sip of the kool-aid. In fact, while I’ve been sick most of this month, I’ve told people my body has been extracting from itself all the straight ticket voting and talking points and that it’s starting to think for itself. Now while there is no way in Hades that I’d vote for a Democrat I’ve started taking issues more seriously and thinking long and hard about why I would vote for a particular individual or not. And I believe more and more Republicans are beginning to think that way. At least the ones I talk to via phone banks are. More and more, I get Republicans who call themselves Independents because of the way the party has handled itself nationally. Statewide, they’re still hard R’s, but nationally, they’re lost.

Does this mean Republicans are fading away, destined to become “the Whigs of the 21st Century”? Hardly.

(More after the leap)

Let’s get one thing straight here. First of all, Republicans didn’t lose in 2006 because of the war in Iraq despite what liberals and the media (one and the same?) want to tell us. They lost because Congressional Republicans failed to hold strong to their principles and Republican voters didn’t come out to vote. It wasn’t that the D’s emerged from their electoral slumber in large margins, Republicans were ticked off and stayed home. Secondly, it seems to be a simple fact that many people don’t get, but Republican voters demand more of their candidates the Democrats do. Most Republicans (read: the base) require that their candidates be fiscally responsible (except if you’re a Huckabee fan) and to the right on social issues. So when we see our leaders falling prey to scandals, be they fiscal or matters pertaining to their private life, we cringe and for the most part say “off with his political head!”. Democrats? No so much. (see: Teddy Kennedy, Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, et. al.) That’s why when our leaders do fall to scandal they get mocked and rightfully so for not holding up the values that they so vocally espouse.

So even though Republicans including myself are not excited about what’s left on the national stage, that doesn’t mean we’ve left entirely. I know I haven’t, but I’m not going to going to fall for the “lesser of two evils trick” anymore either. The Republicans need to get their act together, but our party seems to be going through an identity crisis. There is a power struggle going on between fiscal and social conservatives that can’t be ignored. In all honesty, I think that’s good for the party. We need to work out our issues and our stances so that we can become stronger and more united as a party. Does that mean concessions? While some will no doubt say yes (and you know who you are, but that’s not what this post is about so please don’t make it about that) we need to focus on the issues that are important at the time, but argue our points with conservative credentials. And those issues will be different on the state and national level, but sometimes they won’t. For instance, in 2004 and ’05 I supported the ban on gay marriage in Indiana. In 2007, I didn’t because there were greater and more pressing needs in our state. I also didn’t care for the debate on either side of the issue. I think the issue lost it’s purpose, to the benefit of the LBGT community, by those who argued for it and even against it. People became so turned off to the issue, that voters, like me, just stopped caring. The thing is, I believed we needed to focus, this session, on the most pressing issues at hand and take a firm fiscal conservative position this session.

The same needs to be applied on the national scope. And in a time when our economy could be on the brink of a recession, we need Republicans to strong fiscal leaders, not bankroll our country on the backs of foreign governments who support our enemies, earmark us to a fiscal death and press hard against government handouts like universal health care that will completely bankrupt our nation. If we had stayed strong on those issues, despite our support for the War in Iraq, I firmly believe Republicans would have maintained control in 2006. We’re not dead or on the verge of death. We’re lost.

We won in 1994 on the back of the Contract with America. Fourteen years later, our party looks nothing like the Republican Revolution. I believe that to win Republicans and Independents back, we need a new Contract With America. What would that look like? What will that look like? I’m not sure, but our leaders need to come together and listen to those who have felt discarded by there party, but used to carry the torch for our values. I have the feeling we have until 2010 to figure this out. If nothing changes by then, then we have something to worry about.

So what am I doing this year? Well, I’ve mentioned I’m tired of the “lesser of two evils” theory. So I’m focusing on state issues and getting our governor re-elected. Don’t get me wrong. I do care about my country and my party. But sometimes we need a little Jimmy Carter to give us whole lot of Reagan. Republicans will return, once we get our party back on the same page and back to our original principles.

This post was tagged under: Opinion

7 Responses to “Whigs of the 21st Century? Not Quite.”

  1. Joel Harris says:

    The Howey article is hooey. The premise is that immigration will be an issue to destroy the Republican Party due to the Party's display of "intolerance" by opposing illegal immigration. But he then goes on to argue that the issue is not an important issue. If it is not an important issue, then the Republicans being "wrong" will not hurt them.

    If anything, this issue helps Republicans rather than hurts them–particularly if they focus on protecting the border.

    The analysis that immigration hurt various Republicans in 2006 is ludicrous. The issues of 2006 were fiscal responsibility and ethics (with a bit of the toll road thrown in there).

  2. Chris says:

    What we need is to have a great Reagan-like candidate who can inspire people to believe in America again.

    We need candidates who can inspire people to look forward to the future. We need candidates who can reassure people that people can create their own destinies. We need someone like Reagan who can communicate our ideals in a way that inspires all Americans.

    We also need candidates who can explain why uncontrolled spending doesn't mean more "free" things, but instead takes money and freedom away from people.

  3. Joel Harris says:

    I guess I wouldn't mind a Reagan-like candidate–though I am suspicious that we are asking for too much.

    My contention is that those of us who remember what Reagan stood for must become involved in the party. We must "evangelize" the party (and those who are not in the party) of the relevance of Reagan's message.

    In other words, the resurgence of the Republican Party needs to come about from the bottom, not the top.

  4. Chris Douglas says:

    1. The principle quarrel I have with the above is your statement about universal health care. We HAVE universal health care. The candidates (including Governors Schwarzenegger and Romney) who have had variations of mandates understand the situation perfectly, namely, that everyone gets health care under the current system whether they have paid responsibly through health insurance or not.

    Universal health care is short for universal insurance coverage, which we do NOT have. Universal coverage means no more free rides; everyone who may one day draw upon services is required to participate, include paying a premium, so that those of us who do participate and pay premiums no longer have to shoulder the load for those who can but choose not to.

    It isn't universal coverage that will bankrupt our system; it is the absence of it that we suffer today.
    Also, the idea that universal health care coverage is socialist is driven by confusing universally mandated coverage with single-payer government managed health care. They are different concepts. The problem right now is that there is such confusion on the words that a decent discussion is stifled.

    We have universally mandated auto insurance for drivers; State Farm and Allstate would be shocked to learn that they are parts of a big-government or socialist program.

    I have no problem with people opting out by signing a waiver which denies them access to the health facilities everyone else is paying for. In fact, I think an elegant solution would be to assign the expenses of people who show up at emergency rooms without insurance to people who go on record opposing universal (mandated) coverage. Then the rest of thinking society doesn't have to continue to suffer the financial burden of the irresponsible and the unthinking, which is the present system!

    2. Ronald Reagan's gift was a confidence in the future of American capitalism and individualism and the demise of communism. He was of an era when a considerable conflict existed between two incompatible historical systems; that era has passed, with his help.

    That said, attempting to place the party strictly in the legacy of Ronald Reagan is comfort food. The Republican Party's future is in the future…. not the past. The question is what should that future look like?

  5. Joel Harris says:

    Well the future of the Republican Party certainly should not be one where the government issues mandates to its people, but rather one that freedom is a central theme.

    I have been relearning the term "totalitarian", which in my mind, meant a dictatorial system. But it doesn't. What it means is a government that is involved in all aspects (i.e. total) of life. Part of the problem of health insurance mandates is that it is just another part of life that we would be allowing government to eat into.

    There is also a significant difference between auto insurance and health insurance. Auto insurance is requiring that you can cover damage done to the other guy (i.e. liability is required, not collision). Health insurance is damage done to yourself.

    As someone that was not covered by health insurance for a period of time, I disagree that it is picked up by the government–or even that anyone necessarily "eats" the cost. Anything that I had to have done (including gall bladder surgery) was eventually paid by me as health providers are tenacious collectors. Only emergency care is "mandated" and even there, the ones who could afford insurance eventually pay for the services anyway.

  6. Joel Harris says:

    One other thought on auto insurance: auto insurance is a requirement for driving on public roads; mandated health insurance is a requirement for being alive. I always have the freedom to choose to ride a bicycle (or scooter) or public transportation. My options on living are somewhat limited.

  7. Chris Douglas says:

    Again, I'm comfortable with people opting out, so long as they opt out of the use of the health facilities that are in place because everybody else is paying for them through their insurance dollars.

    Mandated health insurance is like the property taxes that pay for the fire department. The fire trucks are in place to respond because everyone is paying for them to be in place. You can't say that you're only going to pay for the fire trucks if you one day use them. (By the way, something like that was tried in the colonial era.)

    Or that you are only going to pay for the police to be in place if you one day need them.

    If you are going to swear off the use of the infrastructure everybody else is paying to get in place through our insurance dollars, that's great. But in the private sector, for various purposes to do business you can be required to have bonding because there is an understanding that even if you think you can shoulder the risk, when the time comes to pay you very well may be unable to.

    If you can prove that you actually can pay the full cost of freight, well, have at it. We'll issue you a card that let's you in to the heart surgeon when you can prove you have $1,000,000 in place to pay on the backside. You would have all the freedom in the world to opt out of the system.

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