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THE NEW GOP:
BETTER ENABLER OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
Remember the great old line from a Bob Dylan song? -- “I’ll let me into your dream if you’ll let me into yours.” Do Americans have a shared dream? YES!; It’s the American dream, a vision unique among nations, that we are building a country to enable each individual to have an equal chance (opportunity) to fulfill the potential of his or her unique human nature -- one’s dream, as the old Army ad urged, to “be the best that you can be.”
The vision of a renewed Republican Party is to be the better-better-best enabler of this uniquely American Dream. It can do so by finding new ways to honor traditional American values. Do we have to disown or compromise our values? NO! Do we need to be open and imaginative to find new and better ways to honor them? YES!
So, what are the major concerns that Republicans need to address? -- Not those of denial or poor compromises, but rather of HOW to realize old values in new ways. For all the media focus on WHAT -- the usual set of headline issues like energy, housing, the economy, the environment, etc. -- it’s matters of HOW that truly distinguish Republicans from Democrats. Scan the major issues and you won’t find much difference between the major parties. We all want a cleaner environment, more and less expensive energy, strong national security, affordable housing, economic growth, full employment, etc. Statements of goals usually found under issue headings are practically the same. Ways of achieving these goals are substantially and practically different.
Note the major differences in “ways” [“HOW“]:
u GOP: Emphasizes ways to solve problems that rely more on individual, local and entrepreneurial initiative(s), competition, free enterprise, personal responsibility, self reliance, a market economy, small business, free trade, equal justice under law, limited and decentralized government, equal opportunity, less regulation, lower taxes, less government spending, balanced budgets, belief in God, family and community life ... PLUS, ways that adhere to our Constitution [especially: freedom and liberty, separation of powers, federalism, state and local more than central-federal government, and the 1st, 2nd and 10th Amendments]
u DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Relies more on the powers of the federal government -- bigger, more centralized and ever more powerful government as the source of solutions to nearly every problem -- via bureaucratic rule- and decision-making, over-regulation [“command and control” mechanisms], taxing and spending, globalization, social engineering, and the politics of good intentions [We have them; let others pay for them!]. Democrats are more likely to tolerate ways adverse to life, marriage, family and religion in the public sphere, elitist approaches more reliant upon “the best and the brightest”, and ways that compromise the 1st and 2nd Amendments to the Constitution.
These contrasts are sharp, but voters are sometimes confused by Democratic claims that make them sound like Republicans, or by RINOs (Republicans-In-Name-Only). In current debates over Pres. Obama’s “climate change” bill, HR 2454 (a.k.a. “Waxman-Markey”), for example, Democrats speak of “cap’n trade” as if it’s a market mechanism. Republicans recognize its bureaucratic and taxing features. The bottom line? -- Democrats fetish for big government and the politics of good intentions dishonor American values and diminish the American Dream!
The ways and means of the politics used to elect people to office also provide contrasts. Here, there’s an ironic twist that challenges old stereotypes. The old image of the GOP is that it’s a party of the rich -- of big money; that of the Democratic Party is that it’s a party of the people. The 2008 elections marked a reversal: The Democratic Party is now more the party of big money; Republicans, less so. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the major parties differ in their reliance upon political pro’s or in “top down” vs. “bottom up” approaches.
The main implication of these contrasts is that Republican values can begin [now that Bush43 is gone!] to resonate more with (1) those of the great American majority, and (2) the main drivers and future of the American economy. Recall Alvin Toffler’s “2nd Wave” vs. “3rd Wave” distinctions. GOP ways and means resonate more with 3rd Wave drivers of an advanced industrial economy -- primarily innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the individuality and individualistic pursuits of most Americans, who prefer to live in liberty and freedom. Republicans and Libertarians now can and should unite, as in the Republican Liberty Caucus.
Why, then, do Republicans find ourselves so low-down and marginalized, politically? -- mainly because of two major failures --
1. Failure of the past administration to honor Republican values in practice; and failure to…
2. Think through the implications of our different approaches to the HOW of politics and government.
So, Republicans are indeed challenged -- to intensively pursue a new thinking through -- at all levels, before we get caught up in 2010 elections. Recall, however, the old saying “Charity begins at home.” So, too, rethinking must start here, at the local level, from the bottom up. The basic attitude to adopt is entrepreneurial, as in:
Ø The entrepreneur’s maxim: “A world of problems provides a wealth of opportunities,” and
Ø “Been down so low, it looks like up to me.”
For, to repeat, entrepreneurship and innovation based on science are the prime drivers of development. The best one can do at this early-stage -- right now -- is to ask the right questions. How, specifically, issue by issue, are outcomes effected by the differences in HOW things are done?
Examples of this are all around us because, more than ever, “It’s the economy, stupid.” By far the best illustrations are shown in high relief by Bailout and Stimulus policies. HOW the Democrats have handled these highlights the great differences between them and Republicans. HOW Republicans should have come up with their own ways to handle these reveals that they can deal themselves a winning hand by honoring traditional values in new ways.
We have at hand, from the economic development experience of states and localities, a number of proven ways to spur economic recovery -- ways that rely on entrepreneurship, innovation, small business development, American savings and investments and, in general, a “Small is Beautiful” approach. Even though most Republicans did not go along with Obama’s centralized, big government-in-bed-with-big-business-and-big-labor, huge spending, and trillions of new debt approach, they let themselves be snookered. All they could do is seem like reactionary nay-sayers. They had no convincing positive approach, nor a story to back it up. Yet, there is an alternative, a “Small is Beautiful” approach grounded on traditional American values of entrepreneurship, innovation, competition and creative localism, plus confidence in the American people and their initiative rather than in businesses too big to succeed selling out to big government and big labor.
Lest we be tempted once again, contrary to the Constitution of our democratic Republic, to focus on the Executive branch as the be-all and end-all, realize that the major culprit has been Congress. The corruption and failures of Congress as an institution incapable of doing the people’s business -- of members working for themselves and their big political donors -- these are what have been highlighted by the bailout and stimulus experience. Note, for example, the cases of:
ý Fannie and Freddie, aided and abetted by Barney Frank and his cronies;
ý AIG, whose interests were advanced by Chris Dodd and other Democratic Senators.
Also note that the Federal Reserve, chartered by Congress, has not opened its low-interest discount window to small business, only to the biggest of big business.
The risks of huge federal bets on poor policies have been placed on the backs of the American people for generations to come. As a practicing economist, moreover, it is amazing to this author that anyone could think that:
Þ Adding huge burdens of additional debt and spending could solve a problem brought about by too much debt and overspending; and that…
Þ Putting people in charge who have been part of the problem could help solve the problem [e.g., Summers and Geithner].
Let us recall the old adage: Policymakers are often the slaves of defunct economists. Too true now. Obama, though he sold himself as the agent of change, cannot re-think as Lincoln urged: “To think anew and act anew.” He could not “disenthrall” himself (from Keynes and other old thinking of mainstream economists). The key question before us now, however, is: Can we?
The common denominator of both the Fed and Congress is lack of accountability and transparency. Both are the most opaque, least accountable institutions of the federal government. Ron Paul has led the charge against the Fed, calling for passage of an Audit the Federal Reserve Act. This bill already has more than 240 co-sponsors. What about an accounting of Congress? Do taxpayers know, for example, the budget of their Congressional Rep’s office?, how their Rep. spends their money, or how she spends the time they pay for at the rate of $174,000 a year? No, they do not. Such data are hard to find.
There are many other questions to be asked and answered for the sake of the Grand Old Party’s future. What is the GOP going to do to advance…
Equal justice under law?
Entrepreneurship and innovation?
Empowerment of people at the grassroots?
Decentralization of our government -- to honor a key part of the Reagan legacy; that is, that we work to move money and power out of Washington, right down to the local level.
Local government’s power and resources to solve problems?
The values-in-practice of science?
Competitive market mechanisms to improve education, environment and economy?
The 1st Amendment values of dissent, the marketplace of ideas and openness [including support for whistleblowers, not go-along/get along behaviors]?
Accountability, truthfulness and transparency in politics and government?
A people- rather than a big money-based politics? And last but not least…
Change in the way Congress does or does not do the people’s business? Where is a 21st Century “Contract for America”?
The latter should be the #1 issue in the 2010 Congressional elections -- more important than any of the headline issues because it affects our ability to address every one of them.
Realize, however, that before the GOP can play any significant role in reform of the Congress, the party must transform itself. With entrepreneurship and innovation ass the prime drivers of the new economy, how can the GOP fail to be entrepreneurial and innovative -- unless the party wants to go the way of the wigs!? Remember, as Karl Popper reminded us: “The greatest enemy of an open society is a closed mind.”
However one may start to answer these questions, there is a danger of the Republican Party becoming as too many of us behave -- as Democrats paint Republicans so that they are easily stereotyped -- a party characterized by closure rather than openness (as in closed minds and closed borders), with no new ideas, limited in both our thinking and our geography, tight-assed and hidebound, playing the same old political games.
My advice to fellow Republicans is: Don’t let our opponents define us and put us into a box! Let us say to the American people, loud and clear: We’re the party of justice and equal justice, and of opportunity and equal opportunity, the only party that knows HOW to fulfill the American Dream for future generations so that the exercise of HOW would be determined with and by people, not just for them. We should honor the great leader of our Party, Abraham Lincoln, as when he said:….[in his 2nd Inaugural]:
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we will save our country.”
So, what have we accomplished here? -- A new:
v Sense of direction for the GOP that emphasizes HOW Republicans would help the American people realize their American dream(s).
v Understanding that the Congress is a major culprit in the crisis.
v “Small is Beautiful” basis for a positive Republican approach to economic recovery.
v Realization that change starts at home, in our localities, not in Washington.
We’ve also come to realize that the GOP needs to change if it is to lead the way towards fulfillment of the American Dream during this 21st Century. Above all, the Party needs to make a mantra of entrepreneurship and innovation, and re-brand itself as “People-based” rather than big-money based. These have several implications. The Party should:
ü Recruit and support candidates who are entrepreneurs and innovators, who “think anew and act anew.”
ü Take seriously and give responsibility to those in the party’s ranks who are renegades, whistleblowers, iconoclasts or who otherwise “think out of the box.”
ü Work with community groups and select non-profit organizations to solve problems and improve quality of life in communities around the state.
ü Encourage serious debate on differences within the party and provide venues for such debate. Open up the party to rethinking and new ideas as to HOW we can honor old values in new ways.
ü Retrain the “go along/get along” types and wean them away from their “same old” ways.
ü Rebuild the party from the bottom-up by employing party and community activists to attract new members to county, local, town and city committees.
ü Follow guidelines to be found in Peter Bearse’s book WE THE PEOPLE: A Conservative Populism and Robert Heinlein’s TAKE BACK YOUR GOVERNMENT: A Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work.
ü DO NOT support candidates for Congress who will not run as “Change Congress” and “Downsize DC” candidates [see www.Change-Congress.org and www.DownsizeDC.com].
Then we will save our Party so that we can truly be able to help the American people realize the American Dream.
Comments, questions and discussion are welcome. Please direct them to the author via email@example.com and/or to the editor of this online journal for inclusion in the letters section.
 This is an edited transcript of a presentation first made to the Rochester (NH) Republican City Committee on June 23, 2009. A much shorter version appeared as an “op-ed” piece in some NH newspapers.