Detroit, once the arsenal of democracy, has withered to a husk, abandoned by everyone with the ability to physically relocate and forced to file for bankruptcy. Another dozen American cities are teetering on the precipice; trying desperately to avoid taking the same plunge. Our middle class is frantically treading water and attempting to maintain its standard of living. The gulf between the richest Americans and the poorest of our citizens yawns every wider. For perhaps the first time in our history, we worry that our children will be worse off than we are.
We live in desperate times, and solutions appear hard to find. The Democratic Party remains convinced that we will find our salvation in ever larger, ever more intrusive and ever more expensive government. Red tape, bureaucracy and oppressive taxation may not have fixed things yet, but somehow, some way, they will. Just one more agency. Just one more tax hike.
The Republican Party should be poised to provide the counter. This should be its time. It has been provided with a golden opportunity to extol the virtues of free enterprise, to speak up for individual liberty and to argue for a rebirth of the American dream, predicated not on the premise that government bureaucrats know best how to run our lives but on the premise that nothing surpasses the genius of the American people. Set them free to forge their own destiny, and they will do what they have done before. They will shake the world with their accomplishments.
But the GOP has fallen under the sway of individuals who are determined, not to end government overreach, but simply to steer it in other directions. Some are determined to use the power of government not simply to defend their right to worship and live according to their own faith and creed, but to force all others to do so as well. Others, apparently, harbor a vision of some sort of imperial America, intervening everywhere abroad and supporting a massive, hugely expensive national and homeland security apparatus at home.
The party appears less and less inclusive. Rather than welcoming all champions of liberty, it projects fear and distrust. Increasingly the GOP is the party of white males, defensive and embittered.
The price paid by the GOP from a political standpoint has been immense. President Obama should have been a one-term president. He won a second term not because of his political strength, but because of the weakness of the GOP field that attempted to unseat him. It was not that the Republican Party could not attract additional voters so much as it was that it actively drove them away.
Imagine if it were different. Imagine a Republican Party that returned to its roots. Imagine a Republican Party that remembered that it stood for the rights of the individual and the maximization of personal freedom. Imagine a party that was welcoming and inclusive.
Imagine a GOP dedicated to these propositions:
- That government is too large, too expensive and too intrusive.
- That it is not the role of government to manage all aspects of our lives or to redistribute income and ensure equality of outcomes.
- That our national debt is out of control and growing exponentially each day. That we need to balance the budget, and we need to do it now.
- That this is a nation founded on the principles of individual freedom and individual responsibility. That it is not government's job to peer into our bedroom windows, tell us how to raise our children and make decisions about how we will live our lives. That government needs to focus on protecting individual freedoms not restricting them.
- That not only is government too big and too expensive, it is wasteful and inefficient. That huge amounts of money are consumed by redundant layers of middle management, inefficient contracting practices and red tape. That we need to refocus government on its core functions, and then we need to replace the existing, bloated bureaucratic structure with one that is flatter, leaner and more efficient.
- That we are the world's leading power. That we need to be engaged abroad and to keep our alliances with key nations strong. That it is not our job, however, to be the world's policeman nor should we be engaged in ruinous nation-building exercises abroad. That when and if we get involved in the internal affairs of another nation it should be because we have identified key national interests of the United States of America, which justify such intervention.
- That we need to maintain a strong defense against both conventional and unconventional foes. That the world is a dangerous place, and it is filled with individuals, groups and nations, which wish us ill. That this does not mean, however, that we cannot find savings in defense spending. That the waste and inefficiency found in other parts of the federal government extend to defense as well, and we need to put this to an end.
- That abortion is a tragedy. That we ought to work hard to minimize the number of such procedures, and that we will be a better nation when the necessity for an abortion no longer exists. But, that in the end it is better to trust the awful decision of whether or not to have an abortion to the woman in question, in consultation with her family, her clergy and her God, than to a government agency or bureaucrat.
- That the question of same sex marriages should be left to the states to resolve. That the last thing we need at this point in our history is for the federal government to intrude itself even more deeply into our personal lives. And that as a society we ought to be encouraging committed, life-long relationships regardless of gender rather than alienating and stigmatizing our fellow citizens based on their sexual orientation.
- That taxes are too high. That our tax system is also far too complex and far too inequitable. That we need to replace the existing system with one that is simpler, flatter and fairer. That we also need to significantly reduce the overall tax burden, which is crushing the middle class and stifling economic growth.
- That it is imperative that we control our borders and control the flows of immigrants into this country. That it is also necessary that we admit that for decades we have talked out of both sides of our mouths on this issue. That we have claimed that we were opposed to illegal immigrants while simultaneously reaping the rewards of their labor in our service, construction and agricultural sectors. That we need to resolve this issue and that such a resolution must involve a path to citizenship for the 11 million individuals without legal status who have been living among us for years.
- That we need to be restoring free market forces to the health care arena, not increasing the role of government.
- That when it comes to energy the number one objective of the United States in the short term should be energy independence.
- That we should be less concerned about free trade and more about fair trade. That when trading "partners" insist on using unfair mechanisms to obtain economic advantages we should force them to modify their behavior and act decisively to protect American industry and American jobs.
If you can imagine these things, I think you can imagine a future for the Republican Party. You can see a party, which is not a club for angry white males but a vast organization populated by every American, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation who wants to build a better future for him or herself and for the nation as a whole. You can see a party that welcomes everyone who wants the freedom to dream and to make their own destiny.
Maybe, just maybe you can even see the answer to our problems.
The question is, does the Republican Party have that much imagination?