The Republican Party lacks that core philosophical tradition shared equally by its members which the Democrat Party enjoys. The Democrat philosophy is simplistic and derived from a long tradition of populist idealism popular amongst the denizens of culture and state alike. “Here is the way in which we think society ought to be”, they might say, “and the government exists to create, secure, and preserve this way of life”.
It is a philosophy of force justified by popular opinion. The only weakness in their worldview is what happens when what they want no longer shares popular approval.
The Republican Party, on the other hand, bereft of any specific philosophy, is an amalgamation of many: Libertarianism, Constitutionalism, the Conservative Tradition, the Protestant worldview, Roosevelt, Reagan, the Bush’s, and Trump’s America First Populism, Capitalism, Republicanism, and an evolving pragmatism which could be loosely understood as “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, wherein business is the goose.
Sadly, instead of taking the very best ideas of each of these schools of thought, the Republican Party has devolved into a lowest common denominator of each.
It has never been more obvious that the Republican Party isn’t the party of any leader, set of leaders, or the product of ideas.
This isn’t McConnell’s party. This isn’t Trump’s party. This isn’t the party of Lincoln or Roosevelt or Coolidge or Reagan or Bush. This is a party for people who do not agree with one or more of the major tenants of the Democrat Party’s program.
As such, we face a serious problem. Anytime one of the factions gains a victory with a particularly ideological leader, the rest of the factions revolt and the Democrats are swept back into power. This did not happen under Reagan, whose popularity transferred to his Vice President who would quickly lose the support of moderates and conservatives alike. It seems unlikely that the Republican Party is capable of producing a popular Republican President today, however.
Democrats will dislike whomever we elect and the happier a Republican Leader makes any one particular faction, the more miserable he’ll make all the rest.
Alas, here is our problem. We are not a party of ideas, philosophies, or worldview. We are a party of protesters. We stomach one another in protest of the Democrat Party. We stomach one another in protest of Marxism and its American love child, Progressive Populism. We stomach each other because we have to.
If we don’t, we will be ruled by Democrats and that is exactly what the Democrats intend to do. Rule us. We can either be subjects under mob rule or we can attempt to live free under some representative of some faction within the Republican Party at large. Truly, we had 16 candidates in 2016 – and we could have had a lot more!
In Virginia we pay lip-service to a Republican Creed. Were we to keep fidelity to the creed, we just might have a meaningful basis on which to form a real political party and culture. Of course, this cannot and will not happen. It is a dream. Just a dream.
So, recognizing this, what are we to do?
The answer is both simple and obvious. We must accept what we cannot change, have the courage to change what we can, and develop the wisdom to know the difference. I cannot change the fact that the Republican Party is currently enjoying an adolescent fit of populism. Populism and populist tactics have been working successfully for the Democrats for decades and the Republicans have discovered that it can work just as well for them. What is power if not the ability to do work.
That said, populists cannot change the fact that Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and Conservatives will not embrace the fad. They’ll stay at home on election day…(unless).
We cannot nominate candidates that only appeal to one faction of the party, no matter how rich he might be.
If we cannot nominate the most extreme candidates, what are we supposed to do? Nominate the lowest common denominator? Didn’t we do that with Dole, with McCain, and with Romney? How’d that turn out? We won elections with Reagan and W. Bush and Trump, who ran populist campaigns. Clearly populism works. We’ve got to be populists if we want to win elections.
Maybe not. What about nominating good and knowledgeable men and women with whom we may disagree, but whom we can trust to always try to do the right thing? This would also fit President Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Good men who tried to do the right thing. I disagreed with Reagan’s amnesty and with Bush’s approach to war, but I at least could trust that they loved the country and cared about the general welfare of the citizenry.
There are good men in the middle – Senator Marco Rubio for instance. Senator Rubio is a good man who can appeal to parts of just about every faction in the Republican Party. Hell, he even has a Trump-like ability to go after his opponents (even if only the size of their hands). I don’t like that, but what the hell do I know? Trump campaigned as an angry 7th grader and won.
What if integrity, character, wisdom, experience, and moderation became virtues within the party? No faction needs to be kept out, but maybe we don’t gravitate to the leaders of factions. Maybe Rand Paul is too libertarian. Maybe Ted Cruz is too conservative. Maybe Donald Trump is too populist. Maybe Marco Rubio is just right?
It has become clear to me that no Republican wants to run in 2017, 2018, or 2020. It’s just too much of a mess. Trump has made being a Republican in moderate districts impossible, so the moderate Republicans that have been holding offices there are all abandoning ship.
Trump is draining the swamp. What will fill the vacuum? Well, probably a slew of vicious left-wing Democrats. Oops.
Maybe it’s not Rubio. Maybe it’s someone else we nominate in 2024. Who knows which Republican Governor might gain national respect and popularity over the next six years (Hogan?). But I think we ought to consider placing a premium on integrity, character, wisdom, and moderation. I think we need to nominate good men and women.
If the Republican Party nominates Delegate Nick Freitas for Senate, we will have one of the wisest, kindest, and more moral men representing the Republican Brand. I think that’s a gosh darn good idea. While Delegate Freitas may not be “moderate”, he’s certainly more palatable to the average Virginian than his opponents.
I think there is something to character, integrity, and experience that should excite all of us. Maybe we don’t get everything we want. Maybe we don’t stop everything we dislike. But maybe it would be nice to know that the leaders of the Republican Party necessitate the respect of everyone in that party and everyone outside of that party as well. Good people aren’t perfect, but we’ve got to stop relying on miscreants and idealists to satisfy our own dissatisfaction.
The ability to shake one’s fist is not a qualification for elected office. We should remember that.