House Republicans are officially gathering for a retreat shortly. I completely understand why I haven’t been invited; I find it harder to understand why some of the prominent people who share my views haven’t been. I hope the House Republicans emerge from their meeting ready to explain to the national Party leadership the dangers of continuing to spurn people like me.
According to the Pew report, increasing numbers of Americans are declaring themselves as independent rather than choosing to belong to one of our two national parties. The majority of these people are leaving the Republican, not the Democratic Party. Like many reports, this one has led to much pontificating, hand wringing and contradictory calls for action. Some of this is appropriate, as independents are, almost by definition, a hard group to classify. The danger is playing with statistics to define them as monolithic.
I am one of those no-longer-affiliated voters. Technically, my registration reads Republican, yet emotionally (financially and sweat-equity-wise) I don’t consider myself a member. If asked, I would tell a pollster that I am an independent. Since, in today’s climate, my views are conservative on both social and economic issues, in theory, I should be a good Republican match. What happened?
Years ago, when I had a house full of small children, I entered a national toy chain store. The layout of the store was confusing; the employees were sluggish and uninformed. I left empty-handed. I was looking for toys – the store and I should have been a good match, yet we weren’t.
I try to live my life according to the precepts of the Torah. Frequently, I receive appeals from charities that identify themselves as supporting those try to do the same. Often, these appeals go straight to the trashcan. Not only do I not want to offer money, I find the groups they service to be embarrassing. We may use similar words, but we are worlds apart on what those words mean.
There is no dearth of places to buy toys or of charities to support. Similarly, there is no lack of political candidates or issues to champion. When I shop at a national chain it is based on reputation. My experience with that chain and the experience of millions of other people, tell me that I can rely on quality, price and service. If the national company doesn’t provide that umbrella of respectability and stability, sharing the larger chain name is meaningless. If names like Costco or Nordstrom have wildly different meanings in different cities and states, I might as well explore boutiques and mom and pop stores, choosing to shop at some and reject others. Some local variety is desirable; too much is detrimental.
As I see it, a national political party needs to provide reputation, guidance and reliability to have value. Unfortunately, the national Republican Party seems to be unclear who it is. In theory, it stands for principles with which I agree, yet it provides incompetent leadership leaving its members to flounder inarticulately. Furthermore, it appears unconvinced of the worth of the ideas it espouses. While the Democratic Party seems to issue hourly talking points to its elected officials, I see no evidence that the Republican Party has ever heard of the phrase. It’s the Wild West where Republicans are concerned.
Both belligerent John McCain and hapless Todd Akin are examples. I may not agree with everything Ted Cruz or Rand Paul say, but when John McCain, the previous Republican presidential candidate, calls them “wacko” in a Huffington Post interview and is not publicly rebuked and criticized by the national Republican Party for that, it is clear that this group neither respects nor values me. Similarly, the party was completely out of touch with reality not to realize that the last election would not be only about economic issues. By not providing guidance and preparing candidates on how to speak about abortion or other social issues in intelligent and principled ways, candidates like Akin were left to flounder and sink. I see no proof of lessons learned.
My hope is that many true conservative, optimistic, genial and wise leaders emerge. Our country desperately needs them. They will almost certainly run under the Republican banner. Yet, unless the party undergoes a metamorphosis, these candidates will actually be hampered, not helped, by the Republican albatross around their necks.
Agree? Disagree? Tired of politics? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.