Prior to the start of the Iraq War in 2003 I considered myself a Republican. So what follows is pretty close to home. The Republican party has done well to draw upon large masses of the American population who consider themselves value based, ethically oriented and Christian since the late 1970s. In the 1980s there was a movement called the moral majority which utilized boycotts and organized voting to push through morality based agendas and causes. In the 1990s that shifted to a focus on family values and in 2000 President Bush talked about a “compassionate conservatism.” So what follows is a listing of five reasons why I could be, and for a time was, a Republican supporter.
These sit at the top of the list and at the top of the list of social issues is abortion. Beginning in the 1980s under President Reagan the Republican party was the lone political holdout against the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized ending the life of unborn babies. The arguments have raged for decades on whether abortion is about murder or a woman’s right to choose. Ultimately it comes down to a determination of when life begins. Pro-life people believe life begins in the womb, pro-choice people believe it begins when the baby is outside of the womb (or outside the hospital in the case of partial birth abortions). I have to hope this is what the bottom line difference between the two sides is because I don’t want to believe so many people out there actually support the idea of killing unborn babies in the name of a woman’s right to choose.
Issues like abortion represent a primary reason why I could align with the Republican party and for years did. All other issues aside, if a candidate was pro-life I could vote for them. That was the most important thing. There were other social issues too but abortion ranked the highest as it was literally a matter of life and death.
In 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated sitting President George H.W. Bush there was a sign at the Democratic National Convention that read “It’s the Economy Stupid.” This was a play off of a statement from Clinton’s campaign guru James Carville and focused the attention of the issues and voters on economic realities. It did not matter that the Cold War had ended under President Bush or that the Gulf War had been won. What mattered was the economy – which was in recession at the time.
For people who put the social issues first and foremost this kind of logic does not play. Ethics, values and morals are higher priority than the economy and the power of the dollar. Therefore, it is not the economy – stupid! There are more important things in life than money and we have to care for those values first or what is the point of prosperity.
The economy is important though and reason #2 I could be a Republican has to do with conservative economics. I am not talking about Reaganomics or trickle down economics but simple old school conservative economics with a focus on fiscal responsibility. Don’t spend more than you make and don’t raise taxes unless we need to spend it on something important. Leave room in the tax structure for businesses to innovate, grow and enrich the standards of living for workers.
The simplicity of conservative economics does not translate too well in bigger cities and high population areas. The complexity of government involvement in every aspect of business and life seems like a necessity. Because it is a necessity, the government has to spend and so by spending more it has to tax more and before long spending has outpaced taxing and we have a long term system of government interference entrenched at all levels of life – school, work, home, etc… The decay of the cities should be evidence for why this was probably not as effective as a lot of the more liberal planners of the 1960s and 70s imagined it to be.
On the economic front, we outsmarted ourselves. Less is more. Simple is better. If you don’t have the money don’t spend the money. If you can’t sell the tax increase, don’t plan on spending the money.
It was not conservative economics or Republican philosophy that caused the size of the U.S. government to spiral into its present scope and scale. The government is involved in every level of life development in America, from birth to the grave. You must have a government assigned social security number when born and be buried in a government approved grave when you die. Those are the light issues.
In India, their lack of economic growth since World War II has defied logic. It is a nation loaded with raw resources, not least of which is a willing and able human capital component. The thing that slowed India down, according to most economists and historians, was what became known as the License Raj. It was a rank of bureaucrats who held kingmaker like status within the Indian government to allow a business to succeed or fail. Entrepreneurs had to have a license and permit for everything and with those licenses and permits came taxes, fees, and under the table money. This was big time government interference and intrusion into life and the economy.
We do not have a License Raj so far here in the US but it was the Republican party platform that has worked most against that. Republican philosophy aids free enterprise and empowers innovation and business growth. Government needs to be hands off of business and homes, except in the extremes. This is about freedom, liberty and property. Libertarians make this the central piece of their political philosophy but at the end of the day they are merely taking a key plank from the traditional Republican philosophy and platform.
It’s easy to forget in this day and age of 24-hour news and everyone with a smartphone working to catch shocking footage for TMZ, that there was once a time when the the Presidency was an office of respect and honor. President Obama has shown himself to be the coolest President in history, going on a consistent run of late night talk shows and appearing on numerous comedian’s couches to joust wits with them. This type of thing is nice in the moment but one day I think we might look back and think how degrading it all was.
If you were around when Reagan was President you remember when the presidency was something you could believe in and be proud of. Obviously behind the curtain we can see the grubby work that was being done even during this time but it is hard to not appreciate what Ronald Reagan was to the country and to the Republican party especially when we consider how difficult and low the American crisis of confidence was when he took office in 1980.
Here is a famous clip of President Reagan talking about Gadaffi in Libya
I remember being a little kid and watching this scene outside of the Berlin Wall and knowing it was a huge statement.
This one shows President Reagan comforting the nation after the Challenger explosion.
This one is a bit longer but if you have the time it is fun. It was 1992 at the Republican National Convention and President Reagan is giving his endorsement speech for President Bush who would end up losing the election to Bill Clinton. I was fifteen when this one aired and could not believe some of the one liners the former President was throwing.
Rounding out #5 on the list of reasons I could be a Republican has to be the military. I don’t like the military and policing state the US has become. I don’t like the religious devotion Americans give to the flag, the Star Spangled Banner, and military servicemen. That being said, it is nice to live in one of the only places in the world where we can rest safely knowing it is very unlikely that any other nation could or would attack us thanks to the formidability of our military. We take a lot for granted. That military has been built up under Republican leadership and defense policy has always been central to the Republican platform, probably to an excess. This does not mean that those in the military have always fared best when under the leadership of a Republican president but there has always been a sense that security and defense were a higher priority under Republican presidents than under others.