I Have High Hopes for the Republicans
by Reaper0Bot0, Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 02:59:13 PM EDT
The Republican Party no longer has a set of ideas that resonate with the American people. They've cast about trying to find one but they just don't have a coherent platform that will win elections. Perhaps they'll blunder into it, but I wouldn't hold out much hope for that (were I a Republican, which I'm not). While I wouldn't go so far as to call them all intellectually bankrupt (though they're close these days), they do show a willingness to eat their young.
This country benefits when both parties hit their stride and have real and meaningful policy goals meant to improve our liberties, standards of living, and security. I'm not happy to see the Republicans implode. Oh, sure, as a Dem I'm thrilled by the prospect of us being in control. I want that very badly, and at this point in history our country needs it.
The problem is that if the pendulum doesn't swing both ways we all suffer. It is when a party is out of power that it often finds itself, and its soul. The Republicans have about run out of useful ideas. Perhaps their self-imposed exile will help them. They're about to be cast out into the wilderness for a time. I hope they learn something from it.
I trust neither American political party to be effective and honest if there is no meaningful opposition. There must always be the danger of electoral defeat to compel politicians to listen to their constituents. There must always be a true battle of ideas in the public spheres. Allow me to provide an example:
The debate over private school vouchers is a useful debate. How do we improve the quality of our education system? Do we invest money, time, and intellectual capital into our public schools or do we facilitate the exit of our children from those schools into private institutions that already work? There's no absolutely correct answer here. I firmly believe in our public schools and I want to see them made into palaces, but there is an honest dichotomy here. Improving our public schools will take time and no small amount of it. Even if we succeed we will consign many of today's children to a lackluster education. Vouchers will help today's kids, but it's dicey at best as to whether or not this works well for the long haul.
I don't use this example to change anyone's mind on it. My point is that this is a good debate! We as a country benefit when our leaders honestly argue for their own ideas and solutions. I want ours to win, but I don't think we lose when there's an honest debate.
The Republicans have fallen pretty far of late. I think that Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam are exactly right that the Republicans need to re-orient themselves towards the "working-class" by trying to improve opportunities for those who are either at the bottom of our economic system or those who are excluded entirely. We have real problems and I don't think we can dismiss any honest proposals, whatever their source.
We'll win big this November. We'll accomplish some of what we want. We won't get all of it. The honeymoon will end and our leaders will turn out to be little better than those they replaced. Our guys and gals will fall in love with power and they will bribe us with our own money. It always happens. We will need that normative force, that impending correction from the other party in order to keep our elected leaders in check.
We won't be as great as we've wanted. We will fall short. I will do my part to see that we succeed, but it's too easy to focus on the politics and not on the policy. Remember 1994! It will happen again. So will 2006.
This country needs a multiplicity of voices. I hope that, in their time out in the cold (which they have earned) the Republicans can find a new intellectual center of gravity. Will they focus on bread and butter economic issues? Will it be social issues? National security? It's hard to say. They need to better articulate what they think is broken before they can effectively determine how they think we should fix it.
Folks like Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam (who wrote "Grand New Party") are trying to find that center of gravity. Predictably Rush Limbaugh is attacking them for "selling out" the party's principles. In a way I find that sad. Ross and Reihan are onto something and Rush is a total buffoon who serves to keep the Republicans circling the drain.
I want to smash the Republicans this year. I want our party to fix the damage, to stop the bleeding, and to chart a new course for our country. I think we can do that. I suspect we will. However, we have a long future ahead of us and we'll need honest ideas from our friends on the Right. They're not all arrogant prigs who relish a partisan fight instead of savoring a good policy. Some of them (like Ross and Reihan) want to figure out how to solve the problems they perceive. This country needs more of that. I can do business with such men (and women).
The Republican Party has been a disaster for America for the last seven years. They could scarcely have done more damage than they actually did. Maybe they'll learn the lesson. I hope they do. I have such high hopes...