By the Editors of the Shark Tank
The Republican Party finds itself in an unenviable, but not irretrievably disadvantaged position. Out of power at the federal level, Republicans are dealing with a host unresolved problems and issues within the Party at both national and at the state levels, and the Party itself seems adrift without a clear plan of action for moving forward, and leaderless. Making matters even more complicated is the fact that the groups that constitute the “Political Right” are so diverse and fragmented that building a winning coalition can seem next to impossible. But rather than cry over the Party’s predicament, now is the time for an honest self examination for all those who are interested in stopping cold the Obama agenda to identify what it is that ails our movement. In a nation with a center-right political orientation, we must begin to reconstitute the coalition that constitutes “The Right” under a clearly defined set of principles that is ambitious but not overly expansive.
First, let’s begin by putting forth this overriding principle– the Republican Party needs to offer voters a clear alternative to the coercive big-government policies that are now being advanced by the Democratic Party. The more that Republican candidates or elected officials either acquiescence to or agree with the agenda or policies of the Democratic Party as they now stand, the less need voters will have for their public service at all. Republicans who moderate on too many critical issues will gain no Democrat votes for doing so; and the more they hedge on these same issues, conservatives will abandon them- a lose-lose proposition.
Second, we must seek to clarify what it means to call oneself a conservative, as well as a Republican. We can start by identifying what broad policy positions cannot rightfully be espoused by Republicans. Support for higher taxes, wasteful spending, and more intrusive government that controls private industry simply cannot be supported by Republicans any longer. In the midst of economic recession and increasing unemployment, support of increased taxes in any form will only prolong the recession and stall job creation, and too many in our Party have not remained consistently committed to this principle.
It is also misguided for elected Republicans to support judges that have a track record of legislating from the bench rather than interpreting our existing laws and adjudicating cases within the confines and spirit of our Constitution. It should go without saying that we must be consistent in applying these principles, otherwise our Party will again lose credibility with the public. How can Republicans expect to be viewed credibly if a given elected official opposes one tax increase, but then supports another; or supports one judge who pledges to interpret the law rather than legislate from the bench, but then chooses another judge based on other concerns who is much less likely to uphold this principle?
Third, we all need to honestly confront our own failings and the malaise that has infected our Party, causing bitterness and divide amongst the various groups on the right. Conservatives, Libertarians, and rank and file Republicans in Florida have been disappointed by the lack of principled conduct by local party members and the lack of leadership from establishment officials within the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), and the lack of principled governance by certain elected Republican elected officials— their common denominator being that all of the aforementioned have put their own short-term interests ahead of a united Party that stands firm for our liberties and protects beleaguered taxpayers. As the clamoring for a third-party intensifies, we see that option as the path out of power to permanent minority status. The Republican Party platform needs to be narrowed in scope and brought in conformity to Constitutional precepts in order to appeal to greater numbers of voters on the right as well as independents.
If the Republican Party is going to win back the trust of a majority of voters, concerned activists, whether they are party members or not, must not be afraid to call out anyone when they put their own personal interests and preferences before loyalty to the principles that should be guiding their service as elected officials or party members. We know for a fact that the corrosive effects of cronyism, influence peddling, and “pay to play” access to lawmakers and lobbyists have long afflicted both political parties, and the leadership within the parties have been far too tolerant of their practice. These failings have only served to intensify the cynicism and frustration that average Americans have towards the political process. This is the worst time possible to alienate the very voters who will help build the coalition that ends the current one-party tyranny going on Washington DC in 2010 and beyond.
We hear all the time about the need for people with right-of-center politics to come together and unify as a coalition, under the Republican banner, to overcome the Democrats’ coalition. But in order to get closer to that goal, we need to agree on the “what” it is that we are unifying around. A well crafted Republican Party platform drafted by the RPOF could move people in that direction. It is critical to vigilantly guard against the danger of allowing the Republican Party to transform itself solely into a fundraising apparatus that exists to win elections without upholding fundamental principles. Stop the moderation and capitulation, rediscover and adhere to core principles, and remember what it means to be a public servant- that’s our Rx for Republicans.