Tag Archives: politics

Identity Crisis: Reflections and Recommendations for the Republican Party

 

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 entire 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 Ruger P89 .45 caliber; at a place called Rocky Mountain Sports and Liquor 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 to the party 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.

 

 

 

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Free Speech…I’m a fan.

free speech cartoon image

As someone who values our Constitution specifically the 1st Amendment,  some trends and news as of late have been alarming to say the least. Where do I begin, well lets start with “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings”.

First, I want to give credit where credit is due.  I had no idea about microaggressions until I read the shockingly fascinating article “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukiano and Jonathan Hardt which appeared in The Atlantic. I have attached a link to the article and of course, I highly recommend that you read it.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/)

Their article has permanently caused facial damage as my jaw kept dropping as I read.  In short, some Universities have found it to be sound practice to make students aware of statements that they have labeled as microaggressions.  Microaggressions are statements which may be interpreted as violent, racist or offensive even though the words on their surface or standing alone, don’t seem harmful.  Some Universities are even policing the use of these microaggressions through their rules and polices.  The article provided a great example when the authors said it may be considered a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American, where they were born, which then implies ‘they are not a real American’.

My fear as an educator and a human being is that this erects an unnecessary brick wall against conversing as a whole.  In teaching philosophy, history, or any social science for that matter, it is important to be able to have honest conversations, and ask real questions.  As an educator, I may avoid subjects which historically are true, worth knowing, and enlightening all because I fear using the wrong term.  The result may then be constantly fearing if I use the wrong term, phrase, or example; What will be the consequences?  Do I need to memorize the ever-changing politically correct lexicon in order to communicate ideas that I know are not racist or bigoted but may be construed to be so?  Even as I write this post, I find myself constantly reviewing and asking if the last written statement will cost me a job.  This is no way to educate, as a fear of microaggressions may come to cripple our ability to connect on real issues that need to be discussed.  A healthy, honest, civil, discussion is what a democracy needs to not only thrive, but survive.

The second term that I learned from The Atlantic article was “trigger warning”.  This is the practice of college professors, who will provide a disclaimer for their students about the potentially offensive subjects in their curriculum, literature, lectures etc.   Once again I ask;  Should I avoid teaching specific material out of fear that some special interest or group has declared it to be violent, offensive, or capable of inciting post traumatic stress disorder? If this is the case, then higher learning is in danger as is our democracy, because the strength of any democracy rests on the proper education of its’ citizens.  The premises behind these trigger warnings is to provide an emotionally safe environment.  Once again, to restrict human responses or emotion inhibits the human experience as a whole and can serve as an obstacle to authentic learning.  I believe being offended doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience but rather one can use this emotion as a catalyst for response and a call to action.  I am confident that Martin Luther King Jr. was offended by the segregation that existed in his community and nation. But rather than sheltering himself from the situation; he was immersed, even uncomfortable, and at times found himself in life threatening situations.  I am sure that this experience and environment proved to be the motivation that generated change.  Great things do not happen in a safe, comfortable, environment.  Rather than omit, or declare something as a transgression, we should acknowledge information for what it is then possibly confront, debate, analyze, whatever we may need to do in order to enlighten those around us on the validity or invalidity of the issue or comment.  For another example, albeit not as grand of a scale, I know a student who was offended by Donald Trump’s recent comments concerning Mexican immigrants coming across the border.  He did not want to discuss Trump as a candidate at all but to simply dismiss him as a racist, ignore all of his policy statements, label him as offensive and move on.  He believed discussing Trump and his policies would create an uncomfortable environment and would trigger some negative emotional responses, so therefore it should just be avoided.  My suggestion to the student was rather than simply blocking out Donald Trump, why not confront, analyze, and in this scenario, prove his statements to be ultimately false and ridiculous.  To simply label Trump, therefore refusing to address or confront his statements, does nothing for the learning experience and can really retard a person’s intellectual growth.

We must remember that people in this country have the constitutional right to be offensive and I rather have an open conversation because at least those statements or opinions are out in the open with ownership to hold people accountable to their opinions and positions. After all, we ultimately have the power to choose whether or not we are offended because it is a reaction. So now I find myself being offended by the words; microaggressions, trigger warnings, and even the word “offensive”.   All of these terms represent censorship, hinder our first amendment right, and represent a threat to the heath of our democracy.

 

Immigration: The same but different (a true you Yogi-ism)

1892 immigration

“The culture of poverty has some universal characteristics which transcend regional, rural-urban, and even national differences…..

-Oscar Lewis, “The Culture of Poverty” in Four Horseman

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants.  Immigrants like the Irish in the 1840’s who left to escape starvation and would later in the 1860’s welcome the Civil War as a job opportunity with guaranteed meals and a roof over their heads.  Whether it is the Italians, Scandinavians, English, Scottish….you name it, let’s face it, they were not “European nobility”  upon their arrival by any stretch of the imagination. Immigrants were struggling, often times impoverished. Now, we are faced with what has been labeled our current “immigration crisis”.  Numerous immigrants are arriving from our southern borders and they are coming to America for the same reasons Immigrants have always arrived here; opportunity.

A lot of people are motivated by the American dollar. In many Latin American countries the American dollar is one of the main sources of income with remittances accounting for up to 15% of some Latin American countries total G.D.P. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/11/15/remittances-to-latin-america-recover-but-not-to-mexico/ph-remittances-11-2013-1-03/). These immigrants actually provide a weapon against inflation.  The value of the dollar has remained strong because of these immigrants coinciding with the fact that American’s wages have decreased as a percentage of our total G.D.P (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0). This pinch on the blue-collar middle class has unfortunately helped restrain inflation and the remittances from immigrants have helped as well. The immigrant contribution is the siphoning of the American dollar outside our borders which serves to help maintain the value of the dollar by making it more scarce within our borders.  In addition to their resource as an anti-inflation tool, these siphoned American dollars then also provide an important source of income for countries just south of our border.  These countries are often impoverished, in desperate shape. These exported American dollars not only provide a restrain on inflation, but serve as an aid package to countries close to home and their political/economic stability is in the best interest of the United States.  Therefore without a doubt, Immigration is good but….

…I do understand the need to document and regulate immigration.  What was once the land of opportunity remains as such but unfortunately the bureaucracy and guidelines for immigration are not the same.  The process has now become lengthy, clumsy, and inefficient (http://www.cfr.org/immigration/us-immigration-debate/p11149).  There is a definite need to streamline the process for those immigrants whose primary reason is to work, while exporting their dollars. Documentation would also provide these immigrants with a level of protection allowing our law enforcement to share information on the identity of these workers  (although sharing information seems to be a huge obstacle at all levels of government which is bewildering in and of itself in this day an age of cloud computing and shared data bases).

I also sympathize in part with Arizona, specifically regarding their struggle to identify who is responsible for immigration as our federal government and state responsibilities are not clearly defined.  Regardless if you support President Obama and his latest efforts to reform immigration, or if you are a conservative who believes that immigration is the responsibility of congress, or a conservative who is a state’s rights advocate in regards to immigration; one thing remains the same and that is we would all benefit by the clarification of our immigration policy that would ultimately refine the process making it much less cumbersome.

We were all immigrants and at one point the system did work for our ancestors.  Our current system needs fixing, so let’s get beyond partisan politics and do something but beware… it will involve compromise.