In our two party system both parties attempt to build a constituent base that provides them with blocks of voters in an attempt to build a constituency that will carry them to victory in local, state and national elections. The Republican Party dominated not only my hometown and state growing up but really the entire region. While both parties may have expert political scientists recommending that their respective party move further left or right; I would like to see the Republican Party maintain the ideals I grew up to know while moving more toward the center. Of course I am no expert political scientist, this is simply my attempt to reflect on the Republican Party’s constituent base while recommending some bold policy changes moving forward.
I grew up in a western state in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain west encouraged a culture of independence. We were driving at a young age (15-16) and with that freedom came road trips, camping trips, and other outdoor excursions without the direct supervision of adults. All this being said, it was this atmosphere and culture of independence that seemed to also dominate our local politics. The Republican Party nurtured this sense of independence in the west largely through land and gun rights.
In many western states, zoning laws are more relaxed as are the gun laws. For example, I bought my first pistol (legally of course) a .45 caliber; at a place called Rocky Mountain Sports and Liquor. This was a gun and liquor store which included a drive up window for convenient service. How’s that for relaxed zoning and gun laws?
People living in the west also have a strong connection to the land as a privately owned and managed entity to be protected from the ever invasive feds. The land also has a sacred connection for many western natives due to the natural beauty of its landscape while also serving as a source for hunting and fishing. The Republican Party (G.O.P.) stood for low taxes, private ownership, and local jurisdiction in regards to land policy while staunchly supporting the second amendment. As far as land was concerned; some western landowners contested the federal government’s right to regulate and own the land. The feds own anywhere from 25%-65% of the land in western states which can lend itself to increased tension with the locals. In essence, the feds are really the landlords in much of the area. The G.O.P. did a great job of gathering western constituents based on protecting gun rights while representing the “independent” landowner against the ever encroaching federal government. After all it was this bloated federal government that could be blamed for land and wildlife mismanagement in addition to increasing firearm restrictions. Specifically the blame could be directed toward the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and of course what blame game would be complete without the A.T.F. Now this might be some of my western sympathies shining through, but not all of this blame was unfounded and that is why Randy Weaver won his lawsuit against the federal government and let us not forget Waco, Texas.
Another important part of the G.O.P constituency, included religious social conservatives. Where I grew up this group was largely based on higher Mormon populations and other Evangelical groups. These social conservatives and specifically the Evangelicals, are a vital part of a nationwide base for the G.O.P . The party had successfully targeted social issues of importance to the Evangelicals such as abortion and gay marriage. This G.O.P. recipe spelled dominance in the west and ultimately had a national impact culminating in the election of George W. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney (Wyoming). George being your Born Again Christian while Cheney represented those western ideals. It was clearly evident how important these Evangelicals were once again in 2004. Part of Karl Rove’s strategy as Bush’s campaign manager, was to appeal to the base and of course that meant courting Evangelicals. The Evangelicals in return, turned out to not only vote, but volunteered during the campaign. This group overwhelming supported Bush in his reelection.
The rest of the Republican base then includes a pro-business element or what I call economically conservative voters; these are your free market advocate Wall Street types, the millionaires, small business owners and some financially conscientious middle class people looking to reduce their tax burden. These are the groups of Republicans that I have gotten to know while being out here on the east coast. In contrast to many social conservatives (Evangelicals etc.) this group is perfectly fine with gays getting married as long as that gay married couple pays their taxes and those taxes are low. The Bush/Cheney combination and to a certain extent even the Trump ticket, appealed to these Republican voters because the party continued to endorse tax cuts, and less business regulation. In addition to this group then, the national base of the G.O.P. finishes off with a sprinkling of self-identified Libertarian folks which have a stronger presence in the west.
Now that I have established what I have seen as the G.O.P’s base of supporters, I believe the party now needs to reevaluate their political platform. Moving into the future, it is within the best of interest of the party to prioritize equal rights while simultaneously protecting the rights of churches and religious institutions. This recommendation is a bit more radical than what it seems on the surface and risks losing a portion of their recent historical base.
The G.O.P. should not oppose gay marriage nor gay adoption. The party should move forward as an equal legal rights party. In support of gay marriage; Why not approach it from an economically conservative vantage point? No matter which way you slice it, increasing the number of marriages ultimately increases the number of financially stable families even with the divorce rate etc. More financially stable families means more families could be in the pool for adoptions which theoretically then means less people being dependent on the state for welfare or other services over the course of their lives. The first form of welfare is really the family unit. The sociological viewpoint of the family being the cornerstone to a stable society is true. While the G.O.P. endorses the importance of the family, they should not attempt to specifically define a marriage or a family. This platform position would definitely rock the Evangelical boat no doubt about it. However, the bigger war for the Evangelical crowd and all socially conservative folks for that matter, will be protecting their right to practice their principles freely.
The G.O.P. currently endorses protecting religious institutions and their non-profit status. Within their platform, the party also endorses religious institutions still receiving federal funding because of the important role they play in providing services for local communities even if they object to certain federal mandates. The party’s position on Religious Liberty needs to continue and this should help to maintain some of the Evangelical vote and other socially conservative voters like practicing Catholics and Mormons. While abortion and gay marriage were at the forefront of the so called “culture war” the current battleground issue is to protect the rights of religious institutions pertaining to mandated services. For example, Catholic hospitals should not be mandated to provide abortions and birth control. Their federal funding should not be compromised because of their religious objections. These hospitals still have a tremendous value to the communities they serve and because of that, they should still receive federal funding. These types of legal issues are now front and center and will quickly be replacing gay marriage and abortion as viable voter concerns.
In all of this, I would like to say the Republican Party would benefit not from abandoning the culture war, but redefining the terms by protecting the right of religious institutions to practice their principles. The decisions made in Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are not going anywhere. The march of Western civilization is socially becoming more liberal. On these issues, the G.O.P. needs to continue to be the party of smaller government while recommitting to their ideals of personal liberty but personal liberty and equality for all. At the end of the day, smaller governments are not in your bedroom. If the party continues with an unchanged platform they may find themselves on the wrong side of history while losing elections.
Link to an article on political alignment that I found interesting: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/2016-election-realignment-partisan-political-party-policy-democrats-republicans-politics-213909
Link to the political cartoon artwork I used for my image: https://www.usnews.com/cartoons/republican-party-cartoons?slide=26
*The statements made in this blog do not necessarily reflect my personal or religious views but are simply statements on what I believe is the best path forward for the Republican Party in maintaining political relevance.