Preface note: I’ve been a registered Republican my entire life
Let’s face it, the current Republican party platform is dead in the water. I capitulated on them in the second Bush administration for a variety of reasons. Last week, my 83 year old father threw in the towel. He is their core constituency. If he is giving up, you know the mantras are dead and need revision.
So what would a platform for a new Republicanism look like? I believe it would contain the basic themes of fiscal conservatism, and social libertarianism. Let’s take a look at these elements and what they would mean policy-wise. This is just a start and will evolve as I introduce new ideas:
-Stop favoring tax breaks that reduce revenue to unsustainable levels while at the same time supporting expansion of entitlements (I’m looking at you Prescription Drug Benefit for Seniors.) The party seems to have grasped that entitlements need to shrink, but they seem to be resisting tax increases. It’s simple economic reality – when you’re in debt you don’t cut your income. The old canard that higher taxes leads to lower economic growth is defeated by facts. Remember those? If you doubt it, look it up.
-Focus on smart defense. Spend more on State, USAID, USIP, DoD security cooperation, empowering regional defense organizations, intelligence collection and analysis and anything else that helps prevent wars and keeps us from having to fight them. If you have to use those guns and tanks, your defense policy is failing. We need to be smart.
-Lose our attachment to high price fancy weapons platforms (like the current nuclear powered carrier battle groups,) which present juicy, vulnerable targets and reduce the number of vessels we can deploy. Integrate swarming methodologies into defense planning. Instead of a single carrier battle group, build multiple pocket carrier groups that allow force protection over a larger area and reduce the damage caused by the destruction of any one group. Swarming networks beat hierarchal systems every time.
-Where the private sector can do it, let them. Nowhere is this more apparent than Congress’ insistance that NASA pour billions into the Space Launch System when there are private companies providing more innovative technologies at lower cost. This has the added benefit of developing our private sector space launch capability.
-Doggedly focus on entitlement reform. Trade tax increases for medicare, medicaid and social security reform that will ensure these programs are viable and sustainable. When you’ve fixed them so they aren’t going to bankrupt us, then have the discussion about whether they are in our best interests.
-Embrace immigration. Immigration has been the country’s heart and soul since its founding. Encourage the best and brightest from around the world to come to the US. We can encourage innovation and entrepreneurship by making it as easy as possible for foreigners to immigrate if they possesses advanced degrees, can start businesses or can otherwise make positive contributions to society and our economy.
-Embrace technology and be unswerving advocates for disruptive innovation. New technologies are going to radically reshape the way we think about the world, interact, communicate and relate to each other. Rather than holding on to a 1950’s idyllic worldview, recognize that the only constant in life is change, and move to shape those changes before they happen. (PS a little tip: the 50’s were only great if you were a white male. Women and black folks probably have markedly different opinions.)
-Drop irrational moral objections to free markets for human organs and tissues. Thousands of people die each year for lack of donor organs when there are millions who would gladly sell them. Otherwise you are generating the 21st century version of the illegal drug trade. This market should be highly regulated to ensure proper donor information and consent, and well tracked to ensure donors don’t have long term negative health outcomes. (I bet this one will generate the most emails.)
-Promote free trade agreements and market access everywhere, but acknowledge these agreements disrupt US industries and need to be balanced by programs to assist people in effect industries in transitioning to new jobs. Embrace creative destruction.
-Become the party of entrepreneurs, not just big business. Recognize that big businesses make money through the status quo. Vibrant entrepreneurism threatens established businesses. By aligning with big business, we embrace policies that stifle innovation. We need to balance both.
-Embrace science and technology research as the cornerstone of our future weath. Uniformly reject and ostracize the ignorant fundamentalists who reject science and reason as the cornerstones of human progress and US prosperity. Space is the future of mankind, commit ourselves to space exploration and research. Space in the next two hundres years is analogous to the oceans over the past thousand years. Whomever masters it masters human civilization.
-Embrace and dedicate ourselves to supporting a public education system that evolves to reflect the changing needs of the 21st Century. Quality education for all is an obligation of a free state that is in everyones enlightened self-interest. A well educated citizenry is the best way to ensure full employment, innovation, good health, respect for law and order, civic participation, family values, responsibility and all the other virtues important to classical Republicanism.
-Give up opposition to climate change and fight the scientifically defensible battle. Denying that the climate is changing is the new religious fundamentalism. It’s belief with no connection to reality. The climate is changing – it always does. The only argument is over to what extent humans are contributing to climate change and what, if anything we should do about it. Focus on prudent research that will develop accurate models of human impact, rather than radically reshaping the energy economy to account for possibilities. Focus on innovating our way out of our problems. Wildly promote and support alternative energy entrepreneurs which will develop new industries and preserve US competitiveness in energy markets.
-Immediately cease support for the death penalty. There is no evidence that it provides any disincentive for murder, and it’s much costlier to try a death penalty case than to just lock a murderer up for life. Lock em up and save the money. If you believe, God will sort them out.
-Stop the opposition to gay marriage, now. If two free people want to marry, let them. Don’t use the State to impinge on people’s freedom. Recognize that the concept of ‘family’ takes many many forms beyond the nuclear family. In a custom world, people need relationships that work for them. The important thing is: do the people in the relationship love each other and their children, and are they committed to each other? Those are the values we should promote, regardless of form.
-Transform the war on drugs from one focused on prosecution and interdiction to one focused on prevention and treatment. If people want to use drugs, that’s their right so long as they do it in a way that doesn’t impact others. Reduce the focus on interdiction which doesn’t work and channels huge amounts of money towards narcotrafficants, who threaten state stability.
-Diversity is our strength. Acknowledge, respect and embrace the idea that the United States is not a fixed vision, but evolves and changes based on the changing makeup of its citizens. The US looks like the world, but unlike the world where identity is frequently based on tribal, ethnic or regional affiliations, our identity is based on the shared acceptance of an idea: that we all want a better life and if we work hard and long, we can have one.
-Accept all faiths that preach positive virtues like tolerance, love, compassion and understanding. Focus on confronting those preaching hate and fear within ones own faith rather than allow them to spread their venomous messages. Stop the irrational fear-mongering about Islam and recognize how all religions which preach love can also have subsets that twist the doctrine to hate.
-Religion and faith are important cornerstones of American life, but not everyone agrees on one Truth. Keep your faith, but keep religion out of politics. This is consistent with the ideal that you can believe in whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t impinge on my life.
-Recognize that people have different views on abortion. Some feel a fetus is a living being at conception, others believe it’s just a mass of undifferentiated cells. Ultimately, if you believe, then God will judge whether it’s right or wrong. Support research that will allow fetuses to survive outside the womb. If a mother chooses to terminate her pregnancy, the fetus would be transfered to an artificial womb for ‘gestation’. This allows the mother to terminate the pregnancy and keep the fetus alive. But if you oppose abortion, you’d better be adopting these kids or supporting organizations that care for them.
-Possession of guns are a Constitutional right, but this right is not absolute. If you think it is absolute, then you should support the local Wal Mart stocking recoilless rifles. Obviously this is lunacy and contrary to Supreme Court rulings. The right is not absolute and rather than blindly rejecting any legislation that would restrict gun sales, inject some rationality into the conversation. Recognize that while guns don’t kill people, people kill people, guns do make it a lot easier to kill people. We need methods of ensuring that lunatics who want to commit mass shootings have difficulty obtaining weapons. Law enforcement needs to be empowered to find these people and prevent such incidents.
-Support mandatory public service for two years. While this may seem contrary to libertarianism, public service is good for creating a civil society and is important for building a strong, responsible citizenry.
The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.