With the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting the past couple of days, I was reminded of the comments made by Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s last year at a GOP planning conference. His comments were telling as he said for the Republican Party to stay relevant that “we have to stop being the stupid party.” As an Independent voter, who left the Republican Party in 2006 principally for this reason, I have written several posts that our country needs a more reasonable, collaborative Republican Party and not what it has become.
Looking back a year later, while there have been some glimmers of hope, for the most part the Republican Party has doubled down on stupid, rather than change with the prevailing winds. This is unfortunate and will actually cause the GOP to fall further behind in the America’s Cup race, as the changing demographics and failure to recognize the real issues of the day, will provide strong headwinds. My belief is supported by looking at the major issues of the day, recognizing that the Republican Party is on the wrong side of almost every major issue and many don’t even realize it or choose not to recognize it.
The GOP continues to listen to the brainwashing of its major funder, the fossil fuel industry, to discredit what the rest of the world is addressing and 97% of scientists acknowledge – climate change is real and is man-influenced and we need to do something about it. This issue coupled by a blind jingoistic effort that fracking for natural gas is perfectly safe has placed our country in peril that we are only just beginning to recognize. Even the President has been blinded by the energy independence that fracking has helped cause, yet we are selling our future for now. We must address climate change in an even more aggressive manner than we are doing and yesterday’s House of Representatives decision to not support the President’s climate change bill is prima facie evidence of the fossil fuel clout in the GOP.
Plus, we cannot be so adamantly against regulations for their own sake. Yes, regulations and bureaucracy can be overbearing, but the absence of regulations would permit human nature to act at its worst. The coal ash spill by one of best utilities in the country in Duke Energy on top of the chemical spill in West Virginia are lightning rods, just as the BP Gulf oil spill and the TVA coal ash spill were a few years ago. Please remember, fossil fuel retrieval is inherently an unsafe process, but even if it were safe, it is only as good as its worst operator. George Mitchell, the father of shale fracking, acknowledged unsafe practices by wildcatters in the fracking industry before he passed away recently.
Individual rights issues
The GOP is on the wrong side of the LGBT issues and it is beginning to backfire on them. By embracing the evangelicals for votes, the decision to trample on the rights of our LGBT citizens and be adamantly against allowing marriage of same-sex partners places them on the wrong side of history. We are seeing some discriminatory state laws get overturned in court, as well as seeing the pressure placed on Governor Jan Brewer to veto the recent bill in Arizona. Coupling this with the Voter Laws passed in several states like my own in North Carolina, we are seeing these unconstitutional, Jim Crow-like laws get overturned in the court, as well. My GOP friends say these are the actions of “activist judges,” but these actions are not conducive to being a big-tent party and they were told these laws were unconstitutional before they were passed.
The Republican stance on immigrations stymies me. The demographics are set dead against you, and yet you won’t budge on your uncompromising position. This stance, by itself, will cause the demise of the Republican Party. Yet, the GOP won’t act. I recognize this issue is complex, but at its heart it is not. Our industries need the imported talent that hard working immigrants bring. Plus, ideas and innovation come from all sources and there is a huge body of evidence that people who come to our country with nothing, can contribute greatly when given opportunity.
The acquiescence to the NRA on gun issues is absolutely amazing to me. Even responsible gun owners know the NRA does not represent what they used to and see them as a marketing engine for the gun industry. We have a multi-faceted gun violence problem in this country that dwarfs that of other civilized countries. It is an issue that happens everyday, but only gets highlighted when mass shootings occur. And, responsible people want changes to gun laws around background checks and waiting periods. Yet, the gun lobby is so strong on both parties, but in particular, the GOP that reasonable laws cannot be made. As noted before, it is much more than a gun issue, but for people to say it is not a gun issue at all is just plain wrong. The GOP is on the wrong side of this issue and our country needs to change.
We are finally talking about our poverty problem in this country. Yet, we are looking for panaceas to a complex problem. The GOP is saying the “War on Poverty” failed but that is too simplistic a statement and is not correct. Some parts were hugely successful, some were mildly successful and others not successful at all. We can also trace the divergence in “haves” and “have-nots” to what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo” economics, but Ronald Reagan called “Trickle Down Economics.” Several studies have noted the failure of this model, which basically made rich people richer through tax cuts, but it did not flow down to others. It was called the “Horse and Sparrow” theory a 100 years ago, where you feed the horse and the sparrows would eat what passed through the horse. That is as good an explanation of why this concept does not work as any.
We need to look at multiple levers – the minimum wage, the earned income tax credit, and job creation. With our infrastructure where it is, the best jobs program in the country would be to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. Why we are not doing this with interest rates so low, the problems so many, is beyond me. Yet, we are at a stalemate. I should add Obamacare, which is largely a GOP idea, will actually help in addressing poverty issues, as people with health care coverage will be healthier and more secure and will spend more in the economy. The GOP’s obstinance on this issue should backfire on them, as Obamacare continues to show more success in this phase building off earlier phases’ successes.
Deficits and Debt issues
The one set of issues where the GOP has a rightful claim on their importance is the deficit and debt issues. Yet, because of the stance of the Tea Party and demagogues like Grover Norquist, they actually tie one arm behind our backs as a solution. Simpson-Bowles got it right with their deficit reduction plan recommending spending cuts and revenue increases and it should have been embraced as a working document. I fault the GOP and President on not moving forward with Simpson-Bowles.
The premise of the Tea Party is we are “taxed enough already,” which may be a nice emotional sentiment, but is actually untrue from a financial standpoint. Per the well-respected, Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US stands at 32nd out of 34 countries in the measure of Taxes per GDP. Our ratio is almost 10% below the median ratio for the 34 countries. And, as I like to add, George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was fired because he openly disagreed with the famous Bush Tax Cuts. So, as recommended by Simpson-Bowles, we need spending cuts and tax increases to address our deficit and debt issues.
I could go on, but I want to paint a picture that we need the GOP to become more relevant. Right now, they are not a party of ideas. They are not a party of collaboration. We need them to recognize that America needs fiscally conservative voices at the table to make sure we are spending our money wisely. What we don’t need is uncollaborative people who name-call, govern by anecdote, invent issues, and do their best to drive people away. GOP, it is your ship to sail. Please keep it on course and not drift away. And, heed Governor Jindal’s admonition.