by Brianna Smith | The GOP should welcome and support centrist Republicans.
This past election saw the defeat of a moderate Republican, whose appeal to independents was overshadowed by his opponent’s appeal to everyone under 65. McCain lost because of the prominence of the economic issues and the unpopular Bush presidency, despite his best efforts to distance himself from the administration. The Party tried to compromise with the choice of McCain, and not only did he lose, but he failed to excite the Republican base. The choice of Sarah Palin as VP, meanwhile, was lauded by the Party faithful and sparked speculation that the GOP will move farther right in coming years. But a more conservative government would not solve the real problem; that the Republicans have lost touch with the future of America. The nation’s youth overwhelmingly supported Obama, as did just about everyone who’s not a regularly-church-attending, non-hispanic white, the demographic that Sarah Palin and other social conservatives appeal to. As that part of the electorate dwindles, the Republican Party will need to steer in a new direction to keep from falling by the wayside. To reach the new America, the party must go back to its roots as the party of small government, the free market, and states’ rights. Republicans need the Rockefeller Republicans back.
The Rockefeller Republicans were a group of moderates more concerned with efficient administration and small government than any particular set of moral ideals. Less concerned with ardent economic philosophies, they instead promoted entrepreneurship and relied on the ingenuity of American workers and businessmen.They saw an America that was not only a member of the international community, but a leader. But beginning with Barry Goldwater’s attack on moderates and continuing with the Reagan Revolution, the emergence of the Christian Right and their attacks on even Goldwater’s libertarian values, the last 40 years have seen this more socially-liberal wing of the GOP disappear, leaving a growing number of Americans to find themselves at odds with a party dominated by social conservatism and religious interests.
Americans still support the basic tenets of the party: Gallup polls have found that a majority want smaller government, in direct opposition to the Democratic platform. But the dedication of the modern Republican Party to institutionalizing Christian moral values has alienated these people who want less government intervention in our daily lives. At the same time, acceptance of homosexuality, atheism, divorce, extra-marital sex, and stem cell research have gone up every year, leading people to view the morals of the Republican Party as antiquated. Rather than continue in this direction, the Republicans need to go back to a firm states’ rights position. While the leadership might not always agree with what residents of one state or another decides to do, federal leaders need to concede that it should be their right to decide what’s best for them. The drive to federally mandate morality, with the attempts to ban gay marriage and abortion across America, can only prove detrimental to the party, and has driven the rise of the separate Libertarian Party, whose members might otherwise form the bedrock of Republican support.
By becoming more prominently socially conservative, the Republican Party has given up on the northern and western parts of the country as well as the young. In this election, we saw the consequences of such a strategy, and while southern states like Texas remained adamant in their support, they were insufficient to elect a President. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s domination of the north and west has diminished Republican presence in the House and Senate. In the days of the Rockefeller Republicans, 10 out of the 25 New England representatives were Republicans but by 2007, there was only one; moderate Christopher Shays of Connecticut. With his loss on the fourth, all 25 New England Representatives elected are Democrats. To be competitive in elections again, the party needs to return to the reality of administration and freedom, leaving the land of ideals that Democrats and modern Republicans live in. Right now, Democrats promise complete equality, while Republicans promise traditional values. Who voters choose depends on their morals, which are becoming more liberal. But running as the party of efficient, good, and small government, Republicans could appeal to more people. What we need today is not a government that will reflect Christian values, but a government that is run inexpensively and efficiently, allowing its citizens to get on with their lives. Instead, the evangelicals have taken over the party and made stem cell research a more important issue to Republicans than the economy.
In the pursuit of moral ideals, the GOP has lost sight of its goals for the material nation. The Republican Party of today hardly promotes small government or lower spending. While politicians should always keep their values in mind, running the government efficiently and well should be considered at least as important. Under the Rockefeller Republicans, it was, but the GOP now depends on the Christian right for support, and caters to them too much. While the choice of McCain gave moderates hope, the choice of Palin was obviously a concession to the religious wing and, just as obviously, given the election of Obama, that wing was not enough. Unless the Republicans can make a turn-around and bring moderates and independents back into the fold, the party will soon be dead in all but a few states.
Ms. Smith is a freshman who has not yet declared a major.