What dreams have we? What future would we build? If you look around the Republican leadership, you don’t see many answers to those questions, but they are urgently in need of answer.
We’ve taken two wallopings in two elections, and we are headed to a last ditch defense in 2010. Those coming elections are all important because if we cede more ground we will have zero ability to stop bad legislation, and we will be facing the 2010 census and reapportionment of districts without the power to effect the process. Every election is crucial when you listen to politicos, however this next one truly is crucial for the future of the Republican party.
There’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as well as blame passed around over this last election, and much detailed analysis. Ed over at Hot Air digs into the current moves by factions within the party to tar each other, and he’s right that kvetching and backbiting will not unite us, getting rid of one faction or another is not the way to grow the party either, and we must grow. There are severe and steep challenges before us in reshaping the new-century Republican party – the fear factors we’ve been reliant on the first five years of this millenium won’t serve to unite us either.
As President Elect Obama has amply demonstrated, even vague visions of hope and change can easily serve as powerful glue to unite factions. On the other hand being the anti-party and using fear and nihilism is weak sauce to lead with. While many have analyzed our failures [Whitman here, Big Lizards here, The Futurist here,] none have looked at the long run of the century before us and the real challenges we face. It’s well past time to do so because to effect a workable grand strategy we must first maintain or increase the modicum of power we are left with in Washington on the tactical front.
In the rest of this essay series I will pose a series of challenges to some of the factions, for each has its defects to address, we are all responsible – they are important challenges because even as we debate these the world is changing around us and we must overcome the challenges presented there as well. If you would change the party you must first take responsibility and change yourself however.
First a challenge to the social conservatives — you made the most ground in recent history when you became pro-life and pro-family, however in that genesis you did swallow a poison pill that creates a paradox with two firm party values. When pro family morphed into anti-gay, you lost the vision and swallowed the fear. When pro-life morphed into anti-science, you also drank the draught that poisoned your vision.
Like it or not, gays are going to exist, they have for all of history. Like it or not, gays are going to have children, they have have for all of history. For years social conservatives have sent the message that a two parent family is the best for children, but for some reason with gays they are against that vision. It needs to be solved, are children of gay parents somehow less important or valued than the children of heterosexual families? Should the liberty to marry the one you love really stop at being gay? Right now you are comforted in taking this anti stance because of demographics that show weak support for gay marriage, but longer term those demographics will change. What is now is not what will always be, and by this posture you destroy your future.
Among those under 30, gay marriage is not an issue of import, any more that inter-racial marriage was an issue of import for the young generation before that. Society did not collapse once mixed-race marriages became unremarkable, and neither will it if gay marriage moves to non-remarkability. Only 1-2 percent of the population is gay depending on whose stats you look at, and that’s remained static for most of history. The fear of gay marriage is unreasoned, and counterproductive in many ways.
With the anti-gay pill swallowed and not spit out, the party will continue to shrink. So the challenge is clear: how do you stay pro-family without being anti-gay? Will you let fundamentalist minorities within the social conservatives poison your good goal and purpose of united families with married parents, or will you move forward with the positive vision that a two parent married family is best for children, regardless of their parent’s sexual orientation?
Over the past 20 years Americans have also once again found one of the founding values of this country: a love of science, reason, and technology. Now that they eco-luddism of the sixties is fading, it’s once again hip to support science and innovation. The nihilism of the sixties is fading, and once more the younger generations want a bright future, not one of doom and gloom.
The social conservative movement contains within it a faction diametrically opposed to reason and science however, and that must stop if they are to carry a positive agenda. Socons cannot be anti-science and craft a positive message for the future which is exactly why that small minority of extremists who seem to control the message now rely on fear and predictions of doom. Anti-growth and anti-innnovation is exactly what was wrong with the environmental movement and it’s exactly why most conservatives will oppose environmental initiatives. They sense the poison pill of no growth and no future at it’s heart. The false dichotomy of science being antithetical to religion is the same form of luddite poison pill and must be divorced or social conservatism is doomed longer term.
So why do the same social conservatives accept the poison pill of the minority anti-science faction marshalled by Discovery Institute? It’s certainly not pro-growth, it’s not for innovation, and it acts as a poison pill to the social conservative movement.
How can social conservatives go from a negative message to a positive one for the future that encourages new party members rather than a negative one that will shrink their coalition longer term? How can they take back their message and make it positive rather than anti and negative once more? I will submit that it starts with eliminating fear, and to do that you must first face the mirror.
I make this plea not out of antipathy but rather from hope that we can firm a positive vision that will take us forward, that will present broad future vistas together, for we need your passion within the Republican party, but please send the angst, hate, and ire components back to Fred Phelps land, you really don’t need their counterproductive help to move forward.
[in the rest of this series I will have fresh challenge for the Ficons, the defcons, the scicons, and the rest of the folks who compose our party. The challenges before us are many, but thankfully they are surmountable if we are willing to put aside some unreasoned fears. Its essential that we do so because in the past 8 years focused as we have been on the important aspects of the war the opposition has stolen the future and turned us into the entrenched defensive party of the past. We must not cut off factions, instead we must eliminate false dichotomy and cognitivie dissonance with base party values like liberty, reason, capitalism, strength, and life.]