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