A dubious editorial pastime these days involves political progressives offering their suggestions about rescuing the Republican Party from extinction. Of course, one might be suspicious about a political opponent offering constructive advice in the first place, but even if it is sincere, it would just be suggestions refracted through a liberal prism.
A boilerplate assertion has been to suppose that Republicans are destined for the same historical ash heap as the Whigs in the 19th century. Perhaps so. But too many observers confuse the Republican Party with the conservative movement in general. That is to conflate a label with an ideology. The conservative perspective would merely flourish under another moniker if the party were to implode completely.
One of the main reasons that the Republican Party retains a vestige of conservative thinking, is because the Tea Party movement chose to attempt reformation of the Republican apparatus from within, rather than striking out in their own independent direction as a third or minor party movement. Unfortunately, they have been foolishly disrespected by the establishment, who haven’t carefully considered the tragic consequences if the right-of-center vote is split up.
Ironically, one writer opined against the conservative economic precept “a rising tide lifts all boats.” He was likely unaware that the metaphor acquired its popular usage from a speech by J.F.K. in 1963.
While many pundits mimic each other in pointing out that the Republican Party must moderate to survive, true conservatives understand that nothing is ultimately gained by becoming the political equivalent of genuine imitation leather.
There is no point in adopting watered-down liberal policies in hopes of winning elections by attracting a few more moderate voters. That only leads to an impotent political platform, which doesn’t forward any conservative objectives.
While it’s true that American values are evolving, much of the change has been accomplished by appeals to emotion rather than rational argumentation that has a solid foundation.
What the Republican party has lacked in recent decades is a charismatic leader capable of articulating a populist vision of a conservative platform a la Ronald Reagan.
Sometimes these “advise-giving” pundits express seemingly contradictory statements, by suggesting the Republican Party has lurched far to the right, while at the same time saying they have abandoned moral values. Of course, when some folks speak of “moral values,” they refer to their own concept of economic justice, extolling “social justice” while jettisoning social conservative perspectives.
How many times have we heard that the Republican Party has become a coalition of contemporary robber barons and Christian mullahs joined at the hip? This type of assertion, while absurd, evidences the fact that the best social conservatives are usually fiscal conservatives as well. The two walk hand-in-hand. It is therefore rhetorically advantageous to pejoratively assert that religious zealots have joined forces with corporate greed mongers in the quintessential odd bedfellow relationship.
A salient reason for these sorts of observations was made by the late Robert Bork in his classic tome Slouching Toward Gomorrah. Bork pointed out that over the past half-century, there has been a trend toward the politicizing of moral, religious and cultural values. Issues that were once questions of individual conscience have been encroached on by the political sphere. While it may appear that religious values have been impressed upon culture, exactly the opposite has happened.
Take an issue such as abortion for example. Once the question of the morality of abortion was an issue of conscience informed by one’s religious persuasion, sense of morality, and knowledge of medical procedures and ethics. It was an issue that could be decided independent of which party one voted for.
Today, it has migrated from a pro-life concern, to a facet of women’s rights that is highly emotionally and politically charged. It has become such an icon of political polarization that you seldom see a pro-life democratic candidate these days. Whatever is deemed legal is not only ethical, but must be celebrated.
A hypothesis explaining why some folks say the modern Republican Party morphed into an ultra-right movement, was presented by a sociology professor I once studied under. He suggested that the American culture is perpetually moving leftward in its orientation.
He illustrated this by reading the proclamations of a past statesman. After students were convinced they were listening to a functionary of the Moral Majority, he informed the class the dissertation was that of a politician considered liberal in his time.
Borrowing the form of President Kennedy, I might retort “Ask not about Republicans, but ask why the modern Democratic Party has abandoned so many of the ideals of John F. Kennedy.”