An Open Letter to My Fellow Republicans:
Here are his questions: Are these real differences I see? Was it me that changed or the party, or did I just realize (late) what was always there? Regardless, should I stay (GOP) or should I go (Independent), or have I already gone?
I’ve been a Republican for 20 years, for as long as I could vote, and I’m about to hit 40. But something has happened, maybe slowly, and if some things don’t change soon, either in me or in the party, a break up is comin’. Maybe I’m the only one that feels as I do or has my reasons, but what follows are some things that will have to change if the GOP and me are gonna stay together:
Immigration. The Party is quickly becoming anti-immigrant. To put it another way, the party doesn’t mind subjecting all brown people to additional police suspicion and arrests–citizens or not–if it helps catch those darn illegals. Maybe it’s always been that way, and I just didn’t notice or care. But it seems like the only immigration reform that the GOP is willing to get behind consists of bigger and better walls, more questioning of suspected illegal immigrants (even if they turn out to be citizens of a suspicious color), and more deportations, even of people who have been here since they were infants and have only known America as their home. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some high profile Repubs (George W. Bush, John McCain, etc.) that (briefly) made the political mistake of thinking that GOP immigration reform should and could be more than just these things, but they were quickly brought in line or silenced. GOP immigration “reform” is increasingly about policing real–and suspected(!)–illegals. That’s it. The message the GOP is sending to even legal immigrants and their citizen children: If your skin is brown, you better carry proof of your right to be here on your person, because we want to give police the power to demand your papers and arrest you if you can’t prove you belong here, on the spot. If you didn’t know that was the growing message that Hispanics in this country are getting from us, read the Arizona law (in its pre-SCOTUS form), think about how that would work exactly, read some lefty commentary from a lawyer or someone in police enforcement, and most importantly, look at the polls of Hispanics on this issue. My fellow Repubs may say, “No, no! We want to do more immigration reform that just busting illegals, we just want to get the policing powers lined up first.” My response: I wish I believed you, but I don’t. More importantly, neither do the vast majority of Hispanics. Further, giving police the power or encouragement to make Hispanic citizens feel like pseudo-criminals in the meantime in the effort to rid us of all illegals is anti-American and a racist cop’s dream. Get a different priority and/or strategy, or risk losing your soul, as well as the soon to be majority of Americans.
Political entertainment. I could be wrong, but I used to feel that although buffoons and special interests always had their share of sway in every party, the GOP had some statesmen within it, and those statesmen had some degree of real leadership in the party and with the base. I think there are still some statesmen within the party. My concern is that they are not the leaders of the party, not in terms of influence. My growing conviction is that political entertainers have more influence with the base than anyone else–by far. My parents were always aware of whom I was hanging around with and listening to on a daily basis, and I’m aware of it today with my kids. Increasingly the base of the GOP is spending too much time listening to Rush Limbaugh and various Fox News “personalities.” So our party is becoming more like these folks: more belligerent, more arrogant, more belittling of other views. Both the content and depth of the ideas and the tone in which they are conveyed is increasingly set by the political entertainers, and this is not good, unless we think that governing is the same as entertaining.
Criminal justice issues. Related to the points above, harsher and harsher mandatory minimum sentences for everything is not a great policy (certainly not from a standpoint of fiscal responsibility or even public safety), even though it makes for some great sound bites. If “tough on crime” is all our base wants to hear about a candidate, then we’re not even a thinking party any more, just an angry mob. Again, there are prominent Republicans (Chuck Colson, for one) who have advocated real and helpful reforms based on their experience working with prisoners and their families towards rehabilitation, but, despite their experience, the base is unmoved. Our talking heads (except when they are facing criminal prosecution themselves) lead the chant to lock ‘em up and throw away the key, and the party follows. Prison has never been a particularly smart way to deal with crimes fueled by addictions, or with people who do have a real shot at rehabilitation. Prison has shown, however, to be a great way to train all kinds of folks for more crime. We could do better if we can break the singular focus to be “tough on crime” which, not surprisingly, produces more and more hardened criminals. Being tough or angry isn’t the only thing we need; not for long term policy and public safety.
Fiscal Responsibility. Kudos for being consistent in sounding the alarm for fiscal responsibility. I wish I could say that the GOP is as good at doing fiscal responsibility as talking about it. The best thing about the Tea Party, IMO, is that they have picked up on this hypocrisy in the party. Talk is cheap, or expensive, depending on how you look at it, but either way, talk of fiscal responsibility by itself doesn’t work. You have to actually propose and pass balanced budgets (ones that hurt Repubs and Dems interests alike). You have to be willing to cut some of your sacred cows to get the other side to cut some of theirs. And lastly, cutting taxes can’t always be the solution to everything, not if the government is in the red. (Taxes, let’s remember, account for how money comes to the positive side of the government’s cash flow statement, unless you wanna just keep borrowing.) I’m a lawyer with a tax degree to boot so maybe I’m one of the few that knows how many tax cuts we’ve had in the last 12 years, even as deficits shot up, so maybe no one else sees the unreasonableness of being unwilling to put taxes back the way they were during the 90′s. But I do, so the GOP is losing credibility with me. Please keep talking about fiscal responsibility, but not if you are unwilling to raise any taxes or cut any of the GOP’s favorite expenditures.
So, I’m interested to hear from fellow Republicans: Are these real differences I see? Was it me that changed or the party, or did I just realize (late) what was always there? Regardless, should I stay (GOP) or should I go (Independent), or have I already gone?