My Message To The GOP: Get Back To Where You Once Belonged
Prominent political scientist Norm Ornstein wrote in 2012: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” It hasn’t always been that way. Between 1940 and 1994, the GOP was controlled by its now extinct and responsible moderate wing.
During this period of moderation, the GOP produced both responsible presidents and members of Congress. Dwight Eisenhower established the interstate highway system, signed into law the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, sent federal troops to enforce desegregation orders issued by the Supreme Court and repeatedly rejected advice from the right wing to take military action.
The most significant domestic policy stance from Eisenhower was that — unlike the right wing of the GOP - he accepted the necessary reforms of the New Deal. As Eisenhower said: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
While Nixon was a crook, his policies in many ways replicated and built on Eisenhower’s policies. (Eisenhower was Nixon’s political mentor and Nixon served as Eisenhower’s vice president for 8 years.) As president, Nixon increased Social Security benefits, expanded affirmative action and established the EPA. He made unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation establishing universal health coverage and a minimum income. Those efforts were (unfortunately) thwarted by a Democratic Congress who believed Nixon’s attempted reforms didn’t go far enough.
Subsequent GOP presidents were a mixed bag at best and in some cases, a disaster. Nevertheless, they showed signs of moderation that are absent in today’s radicalized GOP. Reagan and Bush41 raised taxes to reduce the deficit. Reagan and Bush43 supported an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Any Republican holding those positions today couldn’t win a GOP primary.
The 1994 election was a turning point and gave us today’s extreme GOP. Since 1994, the GOP has rejected any tax increases, demonized immigrants and minorities, and passed Jim Crow like voter suppression laws. Anymore, the GOP seems to be devoted to comforting the already comfortable and hating anybody outside of their ever shrinking base. This is not a formula for long term success.
What the GOP needs to do is get back to their moderate roots. They could do the following:
- End the love affair with the wealthy and develop a middle class agenda in areas like the safety net, taxes and education.
2. Get behind bi-partisan efforts to reform our immigration system by combining more resources for border security along with an earned pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
3. End the Jim Crow voter laws. Make a serious effort to compete for the votes of African-Americans and the young.
4. Adopt a genuinely small government attitude towards the LGBT community. Cease efforts to marginalize these Americans.
5. Get back to the true fiscal conservatism that marked the GOP before Reagan became president.
6. Get serious about climate change. This could be a great opportunity for the private sector to create millions of jobs.
7. Support efforts to establish universal health coverage.
8. End the pessimism and predictions of “Armageddon.” Get back to the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.
All I’m asking is for the GOP to adopt the positions of every other major conservative party in the other first world democracies. The U.S. is the only major country saddled with a major conservative party that rejects the established science behind climate change and universal health coverage. These are not liberal ideas.
The U.S. would be much better off with a responsible and moderate GOP. The only way we can make that possible is to defeat the GOP in upcoming elections. Only that kind of a lesson will force the GOP to reform itself. The GOP was extreme during the Obama era and they believe they were rewarded for their extremism. Now let’s go out and win one for the U.S.A!