Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free Consult for GOP

With Mark Sanford having saved the Republic the danger of considering him as a presidential candidate, we wish to address the Republican Party with unsolicited, SWNIDish wisdom.

Republicans, how could people who are so right be so wrong at the same time? Your essential philosophy of governance is indisputably wise. But lately, your execution has been all wrong. We therefore urge the following retool of the Grand Old Party.

First, the policy platform. It's three words plus a phrase. They are:
  • Virtue. This has to come first, and this has been most missing in the message. We're not talking about culture-wars virtue issues like placing the Ten Commandments in public places. We're talking about personal virtues widely embraced in the Western cultural tradition: hard work, thrift, personal discipline, commitment to family, commitment to community. How does this work in political discourse? Don't just blame Fannie and Freddie for making a mess of home mortgages and so of global finance. Applaud those who exercised the discipline to save for a downpayment and stay within or below their means in buying a house. Propose programs to encourage not just home ownership but saving and budgeting for home ownership. Propose programs to encourage not just college education but studying for and saving for college education. Propose programs to encourage not just health care but healthy living. The Republic needs a challenge to be a virtuous Republic, not just a selfish one.
  • Liberty. It's time to end "big government lite," trying to give people the pork they demand at a cheaper price. Stress that every government program that "meets a need" does so at the price of individual liberty. Stress that Americans will be empowered to handle their own health insurance if restrictive mandates and discriminatory tax laws are eliminated. At the same time, stress that liberty is the God-given right of every human being, and pledge that you'll do all that a government can to promote liberty globally. Make accommodationists and nanny-staters on the other side look like unfeeling, ethnocentric brutes and condescending snobs.
  • Prosperity. Talk about a rising tide for all Americans. Aim to communicate that a virtuous and free society inevitably becomes prosperous. Attack the politics of envy that harps on unequal distribution with the politics of opportunity that stresses the initiative and adaptability of all people, those very human qualities that make for a better material and social life when consistently applied. Pledge resources to reach into those communities that are dysfunctional to reach those who are willing to be reached with a different way of life.
  • For all. Here's the trickiest part. To avoid becoming the regional party of the white South, it's time to restore the GOP's historic commitment to extending opportunity to all. That means two very specific things which may be costly in the short term: (a) apply absolute party discipline on all expressions of racism; (b) announce that the GOP is committed to welcoming immigrants who are willing and able to work, introduce legislation to legalize the presence of those undocumented workers who are present and productive, and warn party members that anti-immigrant demagoguery will be subject to party discipline. The future of America is a future of ethnic diversity, and so is the future of the party, which begins now. So anyone who sends around emails with watermelons on the White House lawn or who talks about immigration a la Tom Tancredo will be politely escorted out of the party. This is not only right, it's necessary if there is to be a GOP by 2024.
Second, candidates. Besides insisting that all adulterers still holding office resign and enter recovery counseling immediately, think differently about who will represent the party at the national level. For 2012, make a fresh start with what may be a relatively boring personality who can convey the retooled message with credibility. For us, two persons, neither much talked about as presidential contenders, come to mind.

One is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Dull as dishwater on the stump, we think Daniels makes sense when he talks about what government ought to do for all its citizens. Let him speak truth to the body politic.

Another is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. A proven change agent and excellent administrator, Gates has gravitas. This would be his first run for office, so he's in a position to mean what he says.

Both these guys have been far enough from the political spotlight to offer a retooled message with credibility, and both have the resume to prove their competence. They may not win, but they will help get the message back on a track that will win in the future.


Bryan D said...

Firstly, I think the order might need slight amendment (this is why i'm a crazy libertarian and you a toryish GOP guy). Only where liberty is available is virtue possible. If liberty doesn't maintain priority, the R's are the same as D's just with different ideas of virtue.

Secondly I think the cries for virtue here are something that's taking hold among the conservative laity (this bit from Glenn Beck of all people came across my fb news feed yesterday:

It is this move away from billboard issue polemics that have dominated discussion around the morality of the polis that is the true way forward for the people with a message. Any perspective which can be sloganized and graffitied on bathroom walls is insufficient. But we best not expect the change to happen in Washington, if it happens at all it will be when churches more frequently make real differences in their communities and change people's perspective on living.

Rob said...

This platform would make me once again feel confident about calling myself a Republican. Thank you especially for the "for all" portion of your comments. Republicans (and Christians of all political stripes) should be ashamed to be on the wrong side of racial issues.

Anonymous said...

A big pharm guy? Are you kidding me? He'd get eaten alive - think Bill Frist as an investment banker.

Anonymous said...

Wow a Presbyterian ex-pot smoker - now he's got nothing on Sarah. Reality is - who knows what will happen in the future - just work on reducing your carbon footprint and life will be good.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Bryan D, the order is deliberate and necessary: you've got the relationship between virtue and liberty precisely backwards, as Adams, Burke, et al. argued and various oppressed peoples have demonstrated. Think Solidarity.

The contrary demonstration happens every time a free people squander their liberty in the absence of virtue. Like maybe now, for instance.

Anon #1, big pharm has saved a lot more lives than most other entities, big or small, including especially big government. Folks need to realize as much. 2012 needs first to be an educational exercise, then a political one. Things are too serious for politics right now.

Anon #2, "ex-" is a beautiful prefix for conservatives. And as a lifelong adherent to the adult-baptism wing of Presbyterianism, we are ready to reach across the ecclesial aisle.

JB in CA said...

Agreed, virtue precedes liberty. But the common good precedes virtue. How else could we even know what virtue is unless we first understood its purpose? Hence, "for all" should lead the list.

Bryan D said...

That virtue begets more liberty does not mean that liberty isn't in fact necessary for virtue to happen. Even the fact that virtue is a subversive force and tool of liberty is not the point. The laws of a land may reflect virtuous principles, but this does not make those who keep them virtuous but, rather, well controlled (in fact, disenfranchised from what they might perhaps rather do).

The kind of liberty that I refer to, that which enables ethical action, is of course divinely endowed, not a protectorate of any government. I oppose moralizing legislation, however, for this very reason; it gives the opposite impression, an illusion in fact. Virtue can only result from free choice, not compulsion. I would hate for the law or government to imply otherwise. Shameless Pauline reference: law produces lawbreaking, only grace (which is liberty) can produce virtue (and no I don't think that is terribly eisegetical either, it fits in my book, but I'm not willing to go to the mats over it either).

I'd also hate to see Washington deciding that which is virtuous. A virtuous and noble senate is the hallmark of the republic. That such a thing is so rarely to be found is a necessarily damning critique of the system.

Washington reckoned that democracy was only fit for a virtuous people. I wonder which one he has in mind, surely not the ones he lead to rebellion and slaughter of their brethren.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

N.B. that in political discourse this "virtue" is approximate and may therefore be lightly extrinsically incentivized with rewards and punishments. We're talking politics here, not evangelism. Nevertheless, our proposed rhetoric is most clearly a moralistic call to individual responsibility.

We don't want "Washington" deciding what the virtues are. But we think there's a broad enough consensus in the history of Western Civilization to which one can effectively appeal.

We don't like staring with "for all" as it leaves open what it is that all ought to have. It does define "common" but not "good." Free ice cream? Cash for clunkers? Health insurance? Pork? Miranda rights?

Nevertheless, in whatever order, we are glad that our esteemed gentle readers find some value in these themes. We would hope that if they are employed, the larger emphasis should remain where we have tried to put it: that the GOP must recapture its ability to challenge individuals to strive for character and citizenship, not simply to blame sinister forces for ruining the otherwise ideal natural state of the Republic, and that all narrowly nativist, ethnocentric sentiments must be ruthlessly excluded from party discourse.

JB in CA said...

I still disagree. It seems to me that we need to have a firm grasp of the common good before we can even begin to understand what virtue is. Historically, this is the view associated with Aristotle (who identified the common good with a properly functioning community of human beings) and reasserted by Burke (who identified it with one's cultural tradition). It is opposed by classical liberals (i.e., libertarians, such as Locke, Smith, and Hayek) and liberal individualists (such as Kant, Rawls, and Dworkin), both groups of which believe that justice ("the public virtue") is in some sense prior to the good.

The problem with this view is that we cannot really determine what a person would have to be like in order to be just until we first figure out what a society would have to be like in order to be good. For example, is it ever good for some people to receive proportionately less than others, or must there always be an equal distribution of resources, regardless of the circumstances? This is a question concerning the common good, and until we answer it, our concept of justice has no clear meaning. Of course, we can answer it either explicitly, by articulating a notion of the common good, or implicitly, by presupposing--perhaps unconsciously--a notion of the common good, but to ignore it completely is to risk constructing an incoherent concept of justice.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

So "for all" isn't a starting point as a point to be settled before moving on. It seems to us that such a discussion is obviously necessary but is the very thing that a political party engages in if it asserts what we have suggested in contrast to an opposing political party. What we suggest isn't a framework for settling all political differences but talking point for one side to re-engage the public and recapture its place in the dialogue.

KevinK said...

The only part of the platform that needs to be discarded is the support for the liberal policy of blanket amnesty. There is nothing wrong with expecting those who wish to enter this country to follow the rules to do so.

Thnakfully, not all state govts are as out of touch as the one DC.