OP-EDS

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January 27, 2009

When right is wrong

Republicans have lost their way, but a third party could save them

[img id="77193" align="alignleft"] Political parties are fickle organizations. One hundred years after Lincoln, the Republicans lost much of the black vote by opposing civil-rights legislation essential to our nation’s progress. The party of Eisenhower, with its noninterventionist foreign policy and its belief in pragmatic, non-ideological solutions, has become the party that has attempted to simultaneously conduct two nation-building efforts amid a violent and strong insurgency. The party that formerly championed limited government and individual rights has expanded the federal bureaucracy immensely while attempting to incarcerate citizens without habeas corpus and wiretap citizens’ phones without a warrant. The party that used to rail against “tax-and-spend Democrats” has become the party of “spend-and-spend Republicans.” Much of the Republican establishment, especially the Republican congressional caucus, has allowed and even championed the rise of arrogant foreign policy, irresponsible fiscal policy, and xenophobic and intolerant domestic policy. Perhaps more disturbing is the loss of perspective within the Republican Party. The GOP’s current priorities are tantamount to worrying about the troops not marching in lockstep as they march off a cliff (and for God’s sake do not let them hold hands!).

I used to identify myself as a Republican, even as I voted in both the primary and general election for Barack Obama. But the truth is that today, my views are represented no better by the Republicans than by the Democrats. Obama won the election largely because of his pragmatic approach to governance—his belief that the best solution could come from any ideology. George H.W. Bush once said, “I’m conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.” This is a far cry from George W. Bush’s we ain’t gonna regulate nothin’, no matter what that darn Paul Krugman says.

It’s a sad fact that today’s Republican intellectuals come not from Wall Street and economics departments but from Wasilla and Ann Coulter fan clubs. Besides being unshakably pro-life, anti-gay, pro-gun, and anti-immigration, I don’t even know what the Republican Party stands for anymore. And no, droppin’ the “g” at the end of gerunds does not make you more American than anyone else.

But I am not alone; I am a member of an unofficial movement of former Republicans abandoned by the Grand Old Party. Members of this movement can be found at Ron Paul rallies (although Ron Paul is not the movement’s poster child by any means), in economics departments, on both Wall Street and Main Street, and within every demographic group in the nation (yes, there used to be minority groups who voted Republican). Colin Powell and Susan Eisenhower are two of the highest-profile “Obamicans.” What are the core beliefs of this unofficial third party? Limited scope of government in economic issues, civil liberties, and social issues; free markets with smart pragmatic regulation; low taxes and limited spending; and a strong national defense used just for that—defending the nation, not policing the world or nation-building. And these are not meant to be formulaic rules of policy-setting, but simply guiding principles which should be achieved as much as possible in the context of responsible governance. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The pragmatic pillar of Republicanism has been replaced by blind obedience to the neoconservative ideology. Who thought that we could fight two wars at once while cutting taxes? That’s like going on a hunger strike the week before a marathon. Obama’s pragmatism alone won him many of the “Obamican” votes.

Did one party ever embody these guiding principles? No—but at one time the Republicans were closer than the Democrats. But take heart: These principles may have been abandoned by the GOP, but they have not lost their relevance. In a sense, voters like me have become a third party. Our fate will probably be that of most third parties—one of the two major parties will begin to add our views to its platform. And as the Republican Party moves toward populism and decisions “from the gut,” many more will find themselves in my position and doing the unthinkable—humming “Happy Days Are Here Again” while registering as a Democrat. So pardon my Spanish, O party of the Texas minutemen, as I say adios, GOP.

Henry Phillips is a second-year in the College majoring in economics.