The United States is challenged by some very critical issues that will have both tremendous short-term and long-term consequences. To develop the best solutions for these problems, our country needs a robust debate between two political parties that are willing to confront the issues as they exist. Unfortunately, only one party is looking realistically at America and the problems we face. The Republican Party has become captive of the religious fringe and generous corporate benefactors and appears to be operating in some parallel universe. The American public is cognizant of this political vacuum. The Republican candidate has gotten over half of the votes cast in just one general election since 1988. One only has to compare the attendees at the post-election “victory” parties for the 2012 presidential election to appreciate to whom the respective parties addressed their messages. One party reflected the true diversity and energy of these United States. The other was an animated Norman Rockwell painting from the 1950s with varying shades of white skin and grey hair. The dead elephant.
The Republican’s U.S. is “not a traditional America anymore,” according to Fox News Bill O’Reilly. It no longer rewards hard work and has become a country of takers (“the 47%”?) who want “gifts”. It only follows that this perspective would generate the GOP 2012 campaign promise to “take our country back” --- to a more homogeneous society with greater intolerance of minorities, where women were not a majority of the voters, young people were not engaged in politics, and a place with a middle class that was not decimated by trickle-down economics and income inequality similar to what existed before the Great Depression. (Interestingly, the desire to take America back in time does not include reimplementation of the tax policies in effect then - a top marginal tax rate of 91% and corporate taxes which were twice as large, relative to national income, as modern years.)
The president is a Kenyan-Muslim, atheist socialist, and global warming and man-induced climate change do not exist in this world. Regarding the latter, the scientific community is virtually unanimous in asserting that the earth is warming, and over 90% of scientists believe it has a human cause. Unfortunately, in today’s GOP, scientific evidence has been replaced by the wisdom of such luminaries as Donald Trump (“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”). An October 2012 Pew Research poll reveals that only 42% of Romney supporters say there is strong evidence of global warming and only 18% acknowledge human origin. This is in stark contrast with the respective 88% and 63% responses by Obama supporters. Tax cuts are the universal panacea for all economic ailments in the Republican realm even though they require ignoring the recent recession and massive borrowing binge they engendered. Contrary opinions such as the recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that found no relationship between tax rates and economic growth are censored and quashed. The “takers” in this world include hordes of undocumented voters who are stealing US elections. Thirty-seven states enacted or considered tougher voter ID laws in response to GOP scare tactics. In reality, since 2000 there have been only ten cases of voter impersonation in the US. Of course, the GOP is home to medical scholars like Representatives Akin and Bachmann who provided valuable insight into such toxic and imaginary concepts as “legitimate rape” and mental retardation is caused by the HPV vaccine, respectively. The Romney campaign summarized the GOP attitude towards reality: "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
To have an impact outside their ever-shrinking constituency, the GOP has to show the American people that it has their back and a genuine concern for all Americans. America includes the increasing number of women who are having children without marrying the fathers, gays and lesbians who are not willing to stay in the closet, and Latinos and Asian Americans who want their slice of the American Dream, for example. In response to an October 2012 Pew Research poll which asked Americans to identify the most important problem facing the US, the two leading responses with 25% each were the lack of jobs and the economy. In fifth place with only 8% of the responses was the Republican priority of “deficit and national debt/balanced budget/government spending”.
Addressing the concerns of most Americans would enhance the relevancy of the Republican Party in our political discourse. A political party rooted in conservatism guided by a less government philosophy can make a meaningful contribution in this debate, provided it takes the country as it exists. Social issues need not be ignored; however, the GOP will continue to marginalize itself if it uses them as a wedge to divide us. Promoting the liberty of the individual is an American value, as long as it does not require interference with others. This is in the best interests of America and the GOP. Focusing upon the unborn straight, white baby’s unfettered right to bear arms and study creationism in public school continues the GOP’s role as a roadblock and, in effect, makes it responsible for the President’s legislative failures.
Government is to serve people and make their lives better. We do not live in a theoretical world in which everyone has an equal opportunity or adequate resources. Sometimes, we need government; there are things that private-industry cannot do effectively - provide infrastructure, access to health care, equal opportunity for an education, and assistance when unemployed. Americans need a safety net that may be the only barrier preventing crime and civil chaos in these uncertain economic conditions. These are real problems confronting millions of Americans. The GOP does a disservice to our nation through their antipathy to government and by bogging us down in culture war distractions and the politics of division.
Abraham Lincoln is often called the “Father of the Republican Party”. Our sixteenth president appreciated that government has a significant role to play in moving the country forward. Under Lincoln the United States took an active role in protecting minorities from the majority, created an income tax, and embarked on significant infrastructure projects (what would be labeled economic stimulus today) such as the transcontinental railroad, etc. Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her Team of Rivals book regarding the Lincoln presidency, notes Lincoln “believed government had a role in helping people rise to the level of their talent … [a] sort of equal-opportunity role.” Lincoln would not be welcome in the Republican Party today, and all Americans are poorer for it.