Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Restoring A Political Party

I'm not a big fan of our two party system since I believe that giving major airplay to only two points of view doesn't even resemble true representation. I, for example, being decidedly neither Republican nor Democrat, am not represented by any of those clowns in Washington. I don't think there is more than a half-dozen of them whose agree-disagree ration is much further apart than 50-50. People always talk about the power of the "independents" and the "third parties", but what power is that really? The power to swing the vote to one or the other of the two big parties is hardly true self determination. It's just picking the lesser of two evils, writ large. Sometimes, like in our most recent election, even picking the lesser of two evils is more like rolling the dice than actually making a decision. Do we want the incompetent smooth-talker or the incoherent mental case? Anyone have a dart and a dartboard?
However, even a two party system certainly beats the stuffings out of a one party system. I want the Republican party to be viable simply because I do not want the Democratic party to be the only choice, and vise versa. I would whole-heartedly support the crumbling of one or both of these parties if it meant opening our system up to something better but, at present at least, it wouldn't. If one party gets marginalized, that only means that the other party would get the full run of things, and that is truly terrifying, no matter which way it goes. So, for the present, I must support keeping both parties viable. It's that lesser of two evils thing again.
Whether the Truly Faithful want to admit it or not, the Republican party currently is at risk of becoming marginalized. This is not a fait accompli like many on the left would like to believe, but it is a real possibility. The demagogues have claimed control of the Republican grass roots but they do not represent the Republican party as a whole. They are also easy to beat. They stir up the evangelicals and the hardcore conservatives (which blocks make up only an estimated 20%-30% of the Republican party and an even smaller - much smaller - percent of conservative-leaning independents) but they leave the rest of the party cold. You'll get a lot of noise, but not much of any usefulness. Meanwhile, the Democrats galvanize a much larger percentage of their voting block (largely because they do not always insist on treating the loudest block as the only block that matters) and sheer attrition spells a bad day looking for Republicans.
I would like to believe that the ongoing spending orgy being pushed by the Democrats might galvanize a broader Republican base in the next election, but non-evangelical Republicans are rather squeamish in that department right now. The last Republican administration was not exactly conservative on spending. I have also been cruelly disillusioned on what will galvanize the Republican party. I had truly believed that an outright election theft (called such by outside news agencies across the country) and profligate spending would galvanize Republicans in the last election here in Washington state, but it didn't. It wasn't even what one could truly call close.
Republicans, if you want to stir your party as a whole next time around, and not just the loudmouths, you're going to have to work for it and not expect the Democrats to do the work for you. Almost regardless of how much the Democrats do that you dislike, the party as a whole will not move unless you give them a reason to do so. Most people are not going to stir themselves for what they believe to be a losing proposition.
So what will move the Republican party as a whole? How about focusing on more broad spectrum Republican and conservative beliefs? I realize that the evangelicals make quite a racket, but religious issues are not broad spectrum Republican issues. In fact, the continuous attempt to make religious issues defining center pieces of the Republican party platform is a large reason why you are losing! These ideas just do not have broad enough support. Running Republicans who are as checkbook happy as the average Democrat doesn't help either. Fiscal responsibility. Law and order. National defense. States rights. The sovereignty of the individual. Do any of these ideas sound familiar? These are core, broad spectrum Republican ideals and they do not require religious or far right demagoguery. The last great conservative movement (Anyone remember Reagan? The hero of the Republicans?) was ushered in on these very principles. If, as the talking heads of been stating ad nauseum since the last election, the nation as a whole is more center-right then center-right is exactly where the Republican party needs to position themselves. How does pushing further and further to the far right help?
And while I'm handing out free advice that no one is going to listen to, get off the Sarah Palin kick. I realize she's the darling of the far right, but the key word there is "far". She is not a viable candidate and naming her as his running mate crippled a McCain campaign that wasn't exactly doing hot without her "help". Most moderate Republicans and conservative-leaning independents view her with the same stunned disbelief (and sometimes even horror) held by the Democrats. She's the Joe Biden of the Republican party. That woman cannot open her mouth without swallowing her foot up to the knee. If you want to keep losing then keep talking about Palin in 2012. There isn't much you could do that would be more helpful to the Democrats.
If you want to try winning, though, and maybe restoring a true two party system in the process, you might consider getting back to the Republican party ideals and remember that there is much more to the party than just who makes the most noise or the splashiest headlines.

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