Sunday, December 12, 2004

VOR Advice for Republicans

Republicans won big in November and certainly have reason to celebrate their consolidation of power. Despite their overwhelming victory, however, Republicans are facing an identity crisis of their own; multiple voices from within the GOP are clamoring for change (or should be). Here are some things all Republicans should consider once they clean up the confetti:

1. How About Becoming Conservative Again?

I have argued over the past year that the newest incarnation of the GOP is about as conservative as the Pope is Jewish. Risky and questionably planned nation-building exercises in the heart of the Middle East based on preemptive war, record deficits, record entitlement programs, steel tariffs, government intrusion in our private lives, you name it and the modern GOP is sure to make true conservatives turn in their grave. Classic conservatism (which is almost identical to classic liberalism) has a lot going for it: fiscal responsibility, free-trade, libertarian leanings, and a hefty dose of personal responsibility. This worldview is in desperate need of a resurrection (I’m getting good at the religious language, aren’t I?).

2. And Stop Pandering to Religious Extremists

Please, for the love of God (I mean, for the benefit of us all) stop pandering to the religious extremists who want to turn back abortion rights to the days of dirty back alleys and seem to have found their moral calling in gay-bashing. Of course, not all evangelicals are extremists, nor voted for Bush. Most of them are good people who don’t subscribe to the teachings of Jerry Falwell, so please don’t let the extremists dictate policy (more than they already are). Moderate Republicans got their man in office for another four years so now ditch these guys and gals who want to legislate morality in the bedroom, censor the media, and further blur the separation of church and state. It isn’t just Democrats who are opposed to the religious extremists infiltrating the GOP ranks, but many lifelong Republicans. It is no surprise that when it came close to the election the GOP rolled out many of its most moderate members, from Arnold to Giuliani, both of whom are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and generally socially liberal (again, harking back to the GOP’s libertarian roots). One of the first things on the agenda for any true conservative should be to voice strong opposition to the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, one of the stupidest and most unconservative things we have seen in America in a while.

3. Make Success in Iraq (and Afghanistan) your #1 goal

Foreign policy is supposedly your thing and even if Bush doesn’t get a single one of his domestic programs passed in the next four years, if Iraq is a success the whole world will be the better for it and Bush’s legacy will be assured (even those who disagree that invading Iraq was the right decision will agree that a democratic Iraq is a positive outcome).

4. Use the Recent U.N. Scandals to Push for Real Reform and Restore Legitimacy to this Beleaguered Institution

Republicans have long derided the United Nations (for reasons both legitimate and opportunistic) and the recent scandals involving the “Oil for Food” program are coming to light just as the recommendations from a highly prestigious panel are being publicized on ways to reinvigorate the U.N. and make it more responsive to the crises of the 21st century. Now is the perfect time to push for real reform as a precondition for reinvesting authority and legitimacy in this flawed, but extremely important, global institution.

5. Don’t Support Privatizing Social Security

It’s already coming out in major news outlets that the Bush administration plans to finance the transition to private savings accounts by borrowing upwards of $2 trillion dollars. Putting aside the dubious merits of privatization, dramatically increasing America’s already record debt is terrible economic policy. A simple mathematical fact: government borrowing in order to help people save more results in no net gain in national savings.

6. Do, however, Simplify the Tax Code

That is, if you mean it. If the exercise turns into just another way to reward corporations and campaign contributors, and we end up with something just as complicated as the absurd system we have now then forget it. But if some major loopholes can be closed and the system of deductions diminished such that the tax system resembles a progressive flat tax- i.e. progressive rates with minimal deductions at each level- that would be great and Democrats would get on board.

7. Support Comprehensive Election Reform

However broken the election system is in our country, the victors of the last four years have predominantly been GOPers, so therefore, you might be tempted to leave the system as is. That would be a shame. People waiting on 12-hour lines in the rain on a workday to vote is a disgrace. So is electronic voting without a paper trail and the bizarre maze of anti-felon and provisional ballot laws throughout the 50 states that are often contradictory. If ever there was a Constitutional case to be made that people are not being afforded “equal protection,” it applies to voting in the year 2004. Passing comprehensive voting reform would strengthen our democracy, be a truly bipartisan victory, and demonstrate to the “blue” half of the country (or 48%) that Republicans are willing to alter a system that has recently worked to their advantage, which would go along way to proving that they care for more than just their own power. *See the excellent recommendations just made by Florida’s election supervisors; this is the direction we need to go: http://www.sptimes.com/2004/12/02/State/Election_reform_plan_.shtml

J.S.

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