Sure, the GOP must change, but …
By Steven Greenhut
Without fail, whenever Republicans lose elections, liberal commentators eagerly chime in with advice designed to “help” the GOP become more relevant and competitive. The advice is so common and predictable that it leaves me wondering whether the journalists who offer it simply regurgitate old columns saved on their computer. The latest dose of this comes from Thomas Elias, a liberal columnist who has been offering Californians the same liberal advice for many years.
Elias argues: “Calls for change by the Republican Party — especially its California branch — came from all sides in the days immediately following President Obama’s reelection last fall. But don’t expect that to go anywhere fast. For this is a party that values its core principles and predilections more than it does victory.” Pretending to be fair, he notes, “The GOP is now generally supportive of equal pay for women. But it has not changed much on anything else.”
He then quotes various Republicans who say they will not abandon their principles and concludes, “Expecting change, even though the GOP now has sunk below the 30 percent level among California registered voters, is as realistic as expecting a dog to quack.”
For starters, the line about equal pay for women is just a back-handed cheap shot designed to suggest that the GOP is a party of men who want to keep their women in subservience, whereas most Republicans simply opposed the discredited idea that the federal government should use the federal bureaucracy to enforce a equal-pay scheme that doesn’t account for issues such as, say, field of endeavor and the cost of leaving the workplace (i.e., women tend to take long breaks from their careers for child rearing). The goal isn’t to pick on Elias’ reasoning skills or to dwell, either, on his use of bad cliches (dogs quacking). Elias is simply the latest in a long line of writers offering advice to a party they loathe.
The bigger point: It’s always a bad idea to listen to people who hate you. Almost always, the advice-givers in these situations support gun bans, higher taxes, union give-aways, more regulations, etc.
On the surface, the Eliases of the world are arguing that losing parties need to abandon their principles so that they can win. Sure, parties need to adapt their messaging and change a little so that they can get into power, but folks who make this argument are betraying their cynical view of the world. Although I am not a Republican (I’m a Libertarian) and have a long published history of criticizing Republicans and many of their positions, I think it’s a compliment to say that “this is a party that values its core principles … more than it does victory.”
If the goal of politics is to win and given the voters anything they think they want, then what’s the point of the whole political battle? We can elect any ciphers to become elected officials. In fact, we often do. The Legislature and local councils and boards of supervisors are filled with unprincipled hacks who stick their finger in the wind and try to do whatever is popular with the special interest groups and public opinon polls.
Of course, these leftist writers never argue that Democrats should abandon their principles when they lose, which suggests that their stated argument isn’t for real. Elias quotes conservative Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz correctly calling for the GOP to do a better job reaching out to Latino voters, but he somehow doesn’t call for Texas Democrats to abandon their commitment to that party’s big-government principles in the wake of the Cruz victory.
The real argument from Elias and others who are hostile to the GOP’s generally stated philosophy is that there should be no organized opposition to the current program of the state’s Democratic Party.
There’s an entire cottage industry out there that blames the GOP for just about everything here in California. I agree that the Republican Party needs to change. In my coverage of it in Orange County and at the state level, I’ve seen a party run by second-rate politicians who already are doing what Elias suggests they ought to do: trying to give voters what they want rather than offer a detailed alternative vision of how the government ought to operate. When they take principled stands, they often do so on the wrong issues (i.e., social issues, immigration, law and order, etc.). When opportunity knocks — i.e., efforts to end property-rights-destroying redevelopment agencies — Republicans often pick the wrong side of the issue.
Sure the GOP needs to change, but it doesn’t need to abandon principled ideas. If the Republicans simply become like the Democrats, then the state will be in an even bigger mess because no one will be reminding legislators that there is an alternative to giving away the Treasury to the public-sector unions, increasing taxes and treating businesses like they are evil.
In my view, the GOP needs to make a more consistent libertarian case and live up to its state principles by genuinely embracing a consistent philosophy of limited government. In a state that is as socially liberal as California, a more libertarian focus will help it package the sound fiscal ideas that remain at the foundation of the party’s belief system.
But let’s not forget the obvious point leftists would ignore: The Democratic Party has long been dominant in California. Democratic officials are far more culpable than Republicans for the state’s fiscal mess. The Democrats control every state constitutional office and have gained more than two-thirds majority control of both houses of the Legislature. The GOP has no real power base and even conservative bastions such as Orange County are tilting in a Democratic direction. The Democrats own the government.
Yet the state has consistently high deficits. The state’s tax and regulatory climate is a nightmare. Businesses are fleeing, poverty outside of the wealthy coastal enclaves is worsening. California no longer is the land of opportunity. Business owners wisely expand their operations in other states. A state that was once a land of opportunity where people came from all over the country and all over the world is now a place that people leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Is that the GOP’s fault? Partially so, perhaps, but come on.
Why don’t these columnists write about how the Democratic Party should change?
You know the answer.
May 23, 2013