By Will Mascaro
“I just don’t know why Republicans want poor people to die,” a man in a suit that was a little too tight for him said to the man next to him. I hoped that my eye roll that followed his comment was just obvious enough for those around me in the line at Starbucks to recognize it. “It’s like their trying to hold the entire country hostage because they’re sore losers,” his friend responded, holding a copy of the New York Times that would no doubt include opinion pieces making arguments to a similar effect. I didn’t have much faith given Starbucks’s average consumer demographic that I’d be finding many fellow Republicans that morning, but something about the intense dislike and dissatisfaction with the Republican Party seemed to surround and surprise me.
As I rambled off my drink order I kept thinking to myself, am I strange for still supporting the Republican Party? I’m a seventeen year old high school student, going to a pretty liberal school located in a historic battle ground state, so my political views and how important they are to me have always been slightly strange. But it seems like, more than ever, people are abandoning the Republican Party, even from within. I have little intellectual respect for someone that thinks either of the major political parties in this country wants people to die, but the seemingly overwhelming dislike for how the Republican Party have handled the government shut down had me a little worried. Even so, as I drove to school that morning it just so happened that NPR was airing a segment on former Republican supporters who have recently become disenchanted with the party. I get that it sounds cliché, but I felt almost as if I was being tested. It would be reasonable given the state of the party to abandon ship, right?
Well I’ve never been one for giving up, I believe in the future of the Republican Party, yet that doesn’t mean I don’t have grave concerns for its future. An extremist element has infected the party, an element that has forced us off course, off message, and away from the central tenets that have led us to so many election victories. When I say “extremist,” I don’t mean individuals that are passionate about their views, because we need people who are prepared to be champions of Republican ideals.
Rather, I refer to those individuals, a minority of people, who have attempted to mold the party in a way that suits their personal preferences, but not the good of the entire party. The people who believe politics is a game of “Us versus Them,” rather than it being the process of providing the best government possible to the American people. For the past few years our party has been in a sort of political wilderness, losing our central direction, and being slowly but surely steered off course. During this process, we’ve unfortunately forgotten about the Republican Party that has made this country so great.
We’ve forgotten about the Republican Party that wants to provide economic opportunity for all. The party that recognizes that to truly help small businesses, to truly help individuals looking to make a living for themselves, some compromises will have to be made.
Whether or not we’re prepared to admit it yet, this past decade has seen a Republican administration that increased the size of government, increased government spending, and momentarily forgot that true economic growth can only come from people, and not the state. We’ve forgotten that the vast majority of people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, and require some sort of government assistance, would much rather be in a position where they no longer rely on government handouts. Rather than passing judgment on these people, we need to legislate to empower them, creating incentives and opportunities for all currently on welfare to become self-dependent. The Republican Party can stand for low taxes without having to bind ourselves to the foolish promise of never raising taxes, no matter the circumstance, regardless of the long term damage such stubbornness could do. By acting like children, rather than people concerned about the middle class, we’ve failed to focus on making the case for low spending and low taxes, and instead appear ignorant to compromise.
Sometime in these past few years, we’ve forgotten about the Republican Party that strives to include all, and instead became an organization with a reputation of being exclusive. It’s a disservice to the legacy of a party that includes ending slavery and fighting against discrimination to now look upon minority groups with hesitation and scorn. Creating a comprehensive immigration strategy that ensures we don’t reward breaking the law doesn’t mean directing anger towards individuals and families that dream of coming to this country; that love America, and the ideas that America embodies, as much as we do.
People immigrating to this country because they believe in free markets, economic opportunity, and limited government intervention should be a political base for the Republican Party, but instead we see immigrants overwhelmingly voting for the Democrats. We have to remember that we’re the party that values people on their work ethic, their determination, and their willingness to succeed. Instead, we’ve increasingly looked at people based on personal lives, and decisions they make in the privacy of their home, diverting our focus from issues that truly matter.
And we’ve forgotten, most crucially, that we’re the party of personal freedoms and individual rights. In the past the party has supported practices, including the strengthening of this country’s intelligence capabilities, without proper concern for the state of the inherent liberties of the American people. Efficiency is never an excuse for ignoring the rights enshrined in our Constitution, and the only way terrorism will ever truly prevail is if their actions become a catalyst for the denial of personal freedoms across the western world. At the same time, we should concern ourselves with expanding rights, not denying them to people. At the point when Republican led administration on the state level are openly admitting that the voting law reforms they’ve passed are intended to make it more difficult to vote, even the most ardent supporters of the party must take a step back and reexamine the efficacy of these laws.
Voter ID laws with the purpose of ensuring fair and legitimate elections are a good thing, but only if state governments take every opportunity to ensure that every individual eligible to vote can easily acquire one of these IDs. We must be prepared to support an individual’s right to make their own decisions rather than fear it. A limited government that respects the privacy of individuals and their right to make decisions that affect only them has been and must continue to be a core philosophy of this party.
I recognize that these are only are only the suggestions of a seventeen year old, and therefore carry very little weight. However, my lack of any formal political office allows me to be entirely open and honest with my concerns for our party’s future. Not everyone who calls themselves a Republican will agree with me, but the fact that we are a political institution with a wide spectrum of views is not a disadvantage, it’s a good thing. But in my opinion, the fact remains, we have strayed away from the vital pillars of our party that make up who we are. A determination to support and uphold the principles of freedom, fiscal responsibility, and family will undoubtedly be at the center of a Republican comeback. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “there really is no alternative.” As members of this party we either prepare ourselves to object, to contest, and to question the decisions made by our party’s leaders over the next few years, or we are making the conscious decision to allow a man at the front of the Starbucks line define our image for us.