I was born into a multi-generational Republican family, on both sides. My mother's parents were active in the party in Sacramento for decades. My father's grandfather upon hearing his great grandson, my brother, born in December 1960 just one month after JFK's election said, "what the hell did you name him that for?" when told his name was Michael Kennedy Smith. Upon being told the "Kennedy" was the maiden name of the baby's mother Pa, as he was known, muttered, "I guess that's okay then." Ask my brother and sister what bumper sticker adorned the back left spot on the bumper of our station wagon from 1968 until well into the 1970's and they would tell you "Bellmon" who was governor of Oklahoma. That same year, 1968, our mother was a delegate from the State of Oklahoma to the Republican National Convention in Miami; there to cast her vote for Richard Millhouse Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew. Yes I was reared in the shadow of the elephant. And I'm pissed to see where the once Grand Old Party lies today.
Much is being made of whether the Grand Old Party is dying, and I say to that: I do not think it is dying I think it has been killed. The lethal instrument was the GOP membership in Congress from 2000 through 2008--during President Bush's administration. The lethal means was fiscal imprudence and failure to follow one of the principles listed on the GOP.com website, "I BELIEVE government must practice fiscal responsibility and allow individuals to keep more of the money they earn." Not only did the Republican majority achieved in 2002 in both houses ignore and abuse the first part of this statement, they ignored and abused their party's leader in the White House. Sure they stood by President Bush on national security matters, and he aided them by signing budgets that increased the size of the Federal Government and spending, but they abandoned him on his efforts to reform Social Security allowing the Democrats to capture the dialogue with the public and never standing up to them. When that occured the Republicans lost control of any positive messages on any issue. They rolled over and the Democrats and press took advantage. The GOP was mortally wounded.
Many registered Republicans like myself started telling the party when they would call for donations or send "how are we doing polls" to quit spending like Democrats and to show some fiscal responsibility--in essence those we helped elect needed to follow their own principles. Once the Republican members of Congress and the Republican President began growing the budget and earmarks and reckless spending they lost countless moderate Republicans across the country. How could someone who believes in limited government, fiscal constraint and less taxes support a politician campaigning on those issues while voting different? Confidence was lost, the message was lost and the Party was truly an elephant; plodding through the new media and it use in campaigns and organizing at the grass roots. Democrats were able to adequately frame the party on strictly social issues: abortion, gay rights, minority rights and women's rights. While poll after poll showed that only a small percentage of voters agreed with the extreme liberal positions on these issues (limited restraint on abortions, gay marriage Constitutional Amendment, maintain affirmative action quotas) the whole Republican Party was framed and presented as supporting the extreme conservative positions on these issues (no abortion under any circumstances, no gay marriage or rights, not only no affirmative action but no consideration to be given based on race/gender). Coupled with the repeating of the lie that Bush's tax cuts only benefited the wealthy and the Repbulican Party let itself be presented by the opposition.
Those who know me in my Long Beach community would often be surprised when they learned I am a registered Republican--not a real common thing in Long Beach anyway--like they expected me to have fangs, horns and a tail. That was the result of consistent demonizing of my party, and therefore my affiliation. Many moderate Republicans grew weary of the association, grew weary of the lack of adherence to basic principles of the Republican Party and left, becoming Independents or in many, many cases registering as Democrats. The middle ground where over 60% of American voters reside politically, was lost. With it went the hopes of the Republican's future.
Here in California it is even worse for the Republicans than it is nationally. In California there are millions of voters who, if they were to ably listen, agree with many of the principles of the Republican Party when it comes to national security, the economy, fiscal responsibility, taxes and the purpose of government. They become lost when the only voices being heard from Republicans are about social issues to which they disagree. Take out the extreme positions of the far right on gay rights and abortion and it is my belief that the Republicans could take the majority in the State of California within two elections--provided their is cohesive organization and strict adherence to a couple of simple principles: lower taxes, shrink the size of the state government. But unfortunately it is easy to defeat the party because those who control it do take the extreme position on social issues thereby minimizing the chances of anyone who is moderate on those issues to receive the needed support to win.
I feel I am a very typical Republican in California, or potential Republican. I am for law and order and abiding by the rules. When in doubt read the Constitution. The lowest tier of government should have the most control on exactly how funds should be spent, no specific mandates from the Federal Government or the State Government---give the money to the local school district and let them spend it how that district needs it spent. The needs in Fresno are not the same as the needs in San Juan Capistrano so do not mandate the same programs. Lower taxes create more jobs and economic growth, it has been proven again, and again, and again. Get rid of the overwhelming influence of the public employees unions on our elections. They dictate who wins primaries and elections and therefore they dictate policy and laws that benefit them and hurt the general public. Protect me and my family. Secure the borders, quit wasting billions on anti- this and pro-that feel good programs that have solved no problems such as gangs, graffitti, truancy, teen pregnancy and other issues that create more waste of public safety, health care and education funds to deal with these costly segments of our communities.
Fiscal prudence, public safety, limited government concentrated at the local level where those who know best what is needed are able to direct resources more efficiently. Individuals and communities need to be responsible and accountable, quit molly-coddling those who are not. Sounds good to many people.
At the same time I am for abortion in many circumstances, but not all. I am for gay marriage; if the state is providing a license, and it is called a "marriage license" then it should be available to hetero- and homo-sexual couples alike. These two issues alone are minor on most people's political decision making process--but unfortunately they are now the litmus test for support from those with the funding and the organizations. Essentially in California a bright young person with views similar to mine, and the majority of Californians according to polls, cannot get elected.
The leadership of the Republican Party, both in the state and nationally, better be pretty darned scared of the future of that which they lead. Rich Galen, a national political writer and commentator, who worked with Newt Gingrich and other high profile Republicans through the years, a staunch Republican and with a huge national following on his thrice-weekly blog Mullings has opined that now may be the time for a third party. And he may be right. If properly formed and organized it certainly tempts me. The current third, fourth, fifth parties are not appealing to moderates like myself due to their history and the looniness of many of their candidates.
How does the GOP recapture registered voters? How does it recapture votes and win elections? Simple. Get on the street. Hold regular face-to-face meetings with voters, and not white voters in Orange County, but with black pastors, hispanic business owners, local community leaders, college and high school students. Sit down with them and show them the principles of the Republican Party. Explain to them the loss of the message, the need to rebuild the party, the desire to work to return hard earned dollars and paid taxes to their pocket and their communities; not through government stimulus packages which are wasteful and inefficient, not through one time programs that have too many restrictions and rules, but in funding of local government with broad guidelines: educate, protect, build.
Unless the Republican Party, and especially those elected under the banner of the elephant, begin acting like Republicans on major issues of defense, public safety, education, fiscal responsibility and the economy no amount of outreach will recapture the passion of those like me. But with demonstrated leadership and consistent votes by those elected it becomes easier to point to them and their commitment when giving a personal message.
Whither the Republican Party? Yes, whithered indeed, but it is possible to have a bright future.