Thursday, May 04, 2006

Saving Republican Turnout

There’s a lot of talk these days about apathy about conservative voters. The Republican Party is quite justifiably afraid that they will lose seats in the upcoming mid-term elections because their base may stay home. For the most part, efforts to rescue base turnout have focused on attitude and proclamations about issues. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will solve the problem.

The real problem with the conservative base, especially with social conservatives like me, is that we have started to come to the conclusion that the party is all talk and no action. Sure, it is true that the Bush administration has done a number of good things for social conservatives. First, the president overturned the Clinton administration’s executive orders that supported abortion internationally, and re-instituted Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy that prevented the use of American funds for abortion abroad. Second, Congress passed and the president signed both the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and a bill to criminalize federal crimes that injure the unborn. It is true that the base has forgotten these important triumphs far too quickly. But it is important for the Republicans to realize that the base has forgotten, and that they’re wondering exactly what the Republican Party has done for them lately. And well we wonder. Republicans have a majority in the House and the Senate as well as control of the presidency. Nevertheless, very little of the legislation that social conservatives want is getting passed. If Republicans want to save the mid-term elections, here are some examples of the things they need to DO in the next six months rather than merely talk about:

1. Pass and sign Dan Lungren’s Marriage Protection Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. This should have been a no-brainer. In the states in which marriage protection amendments or legislation have been considered, the vote is almost always around 70% in favor of protecting marriage. Why politicians in Washington are afraid to tackle an issue that has such a clear super majority in favor of it boggles the mind. This to say that their inaction is angering and frustrating the 70% of the people who want to see marriage protected. In addition, this is something that should be done, not merely discussed. Passing it will go a long way toward convincing social conservatives that the government is not simply using them.

2. Pass a life-protection amendment. The Republican Party has had in its platform for decades a statement that life begins at conception and abortion should be prohibited. It’s about time that something was done about trying to pass an amendment to the Constitution to protect the lives of the unborn in the contexts of abortion, embryonic cloning and other scientific research. Current law not only allows abortion on demand, but it allows so-called scientists to mass produce hundreds of human beings and then kill them for basic research. This anomaly in the law needs to be fixed before things get worse.

3. New research ethics legislation. If the Republicans cannot get a large enough super majority to pass a constitutional amendment protecting life, they should at least put together a legislative scheme preventing the mass slaughter of human beings in so-called research regarding embryonic stem cells and cloning.

4. Legislation encouraging home schooling and private schooling. In most urban areas, public education is training our children to believe all of the wrong things about morality, religion, life and reality. Through vouchers, tax deductions or whatever other creative means can be developed, we need to encourage home schooling and private schooling in Christian schools. If anything, the Republicans should see this as affecting their own future since the public schools are essentially trying to raise people to be good Democratic voters.

5. Care for veterans. As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down, we are going to see more and more articles in the news media about the suffering of individual veterans. The government should do everything they can to get ahead of the curve on this and make sure that they take care of the cases of individual veterans in a humane manner now for the sake of morality rather than later for the sake of damage control.

6. National security. The White House needs to take measures to demonstrate that it is continuing to deal competently with the problems with the war on terror and Iran. While a third of America is unhappy with the president for being at war at all, there is another third that is concerned that he is not strengthening the military, preparing for the long future of the war, dealing strongly enough early enough with Iran, and dealing firmly enough with terrorists in other areas. It may very well be that the administration is actually doing the best job possible under the circumstances considering the need for a balancing of the force footprint vs. force effectiveness. But more needs to be done to show the American people what’s being done and why without compromising tactical security. The administration has created a perception among social conservatives that it is attempting to fight a deadly global war “on the cheap.” This simply will not do.

7. Border security. The immigration problem is very complicated. On the one hand, the Bible asks us to be welcoming of strangers and foreigners. In addition, it is difficult not to have compassion on the individuals living in poverty who want to come to the United States in order to have a decent life for their families. But on the other hand, there is the issue of obeying the law. People who enter the United States without a proper visa or permission are clearly violating the law. If someone is willing to violate the law for economic reasons, they may very well be willing to violate it or ignore it in other circumstances as well. This sometimes makes them less than ideal citizens. There is also the cultural problem. Rapid influxes of people with a different culture who do not seem to have an intent to adopt the culture of their new home make the existing culture uncomfortable. In addition, their different values sometimes compromise the successful pursuit of the values of the host country. But it is usually the case that by the third generation the children of immigrants do begin to truly acclimate to their host country and to adopt its culture as their home culture. The subjective discomfort of the home culture may be a temporary thing if there is not a constant influx of new immigrants. Then there is always the objective problem that some of the cultural values of the wave of illegal immigrants we are currently experiencing are not supportive of the type of government and way of life America has traditionally sought. Again, education and the change in generations may solve this problem. But with American public schools essentially taking a neutral role in issues like morality and advocating a radical left wing view of politics, this problem may prove extremely complicated. If the church undertakes extensive missionary efforts among immigrants, this may mitigate the problems. We can all have a common culture in Christ and in the Bible modifying both traditional American culture and the former cultures of the illegal immigrants to create a newer more biblical way of life. Certainly Christianity is trans-cultural and we should be able to find common unity in Christ. But then on top of all of this is the practical problem that many people are uncomfortable with the presence of so many illegal immigrants, but there is no practical way to deport 11 million people. In fact, doing so would in many cases be cruel. Of course it must be remembered that the immigrants who have been here for many years would have been granted amnesty in the last wave of official amnesties. So illegal status can only go back so far. Nevertheless, the practical problem is a large problem. So, sizing up some of these pros and cons, there is no easy solution to this problem. But there is a great deal of disenchantment among conservative voters with the administration’s current approach. While there will be no agreement on the issue of amnesty, there probably are two issues people could agree on. If the government were to take border security seriously and put up a serious barrier at the border such as the heavy sensor-laden fence that the Israelis have used to separate the West Bank from the rest of Israel, then people would feel that something was actually being done to ensure border security. This would reduce the influx of illegal aliens and allow for greater control of the southern border. Absolute border security may be impossible, but border security to stop small bands of poor people from walking across the border in the middle of the desert is possible. Second, everyone can probably agree to make it easier to immigrate to the United States legally. Expanding legal immigration would be far more fair since it would allow people from all over the world to come to the United States, not merely people who share a common border with the United States. In addition, it would take some of the pressure off illegal immigration because it would give people a greater hope of being able to get in legally. Even if there are people who don’t appreciate immigration, it is certainly better to have a large wave of legal immigrants than a large wave of illegal immigrants who are not properly documented and who have demonstrated by their illegal entry to the country that they have higher priorities than keeping the law. These two things would go a long way toward ensuring a decent voter turnout.

8. Restraint of government spending. This is difficult because while we’re at war we clearly have to spend a lot more money on the military and on foreign aid. We are also going to have to spend a lot more money on intelligence gathering and on television and radio for the Islamic world. At the same time, the government cannot seriously raise taxes without sending the economy back into a recession. As a result, somehow spending is going to have to be cut. This is undoubtedly difficult and painful. Any time spending for domestic programs is cut, the government is portrayed as being heartless, cruel and an enemy of the poor. Nevertheless, there must be significant ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government care for the poor, while at the same time reducing overall expenditures.

9. Cut the pork. This is always a difficult problem because people tend to vote for their own congressman based on what the congressman does for them and yet hate every other congressman because of what they do for their district. In other words, pork is OK as long as it’s your own pork. Other peoples’ pork is bad. Sadly, the Republicans have gotten deeply involved in the pork business since they consolidated power in Washington. While there are undoubtedly legitimate road and bridge projects out there in the United States, somehow a distinction has to be made between the things that really need to be done and the things that are simply pork. And unnecessary spending needs to be cut. At least during war time.

10. Provide leadership instead of following the poles. Sometimes you do have to take political realities into consideration and either back off or compromise. But the poles are shaped by the arguments and speeches of leaders who change culture by their leadership. The Republicans need to be leaders who drive what people think and why they think it rather than trying to decide which way the wind of the future is going to blow and then going there. Pole following is unprincipled and in the end usually fails. But when Republicans do what’s right, explain why they’re doing it, and stand by their decision, the public usually comes along sooner or later. This was certainly the experience of Ronald Reagan.

Last of all, what if you’re a Democrat? If you do these things faster and better than the Republican office holders rank and file republicans will vote for you.

1 comment:

Gordon Cloud said...

This is a good post and I agree with the points you have outlined here.

One thing you mentioned that caught my attention was that the church has the opportunity to missionize the immigrants. I pray to God that we do not miss this opportunity.