Did you know that Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election exactly once in the last 23 years?
So whether you are one of those red state enthusiasts who aligns with the tea party or if you are moderate conservative who is somewhat concerned at the leftward leaning direction our country has been trending in as of late, this little nugget ought to concern you. And at the minimum make you ask why.
Now, over the years I have heard many arguments put forth as to what exactly the Republican problem is. I have heard that the liberal media is to blame, I have heard that we weren’t able to get our message out correctly and I have heard that our candidate wasn’t conservative enough. All of these points might have some validity, but at the core, they are (in my humble opinion) not the real issue.
The problem as I see it is that a number of Republicans, from the lowliest of the party, right up to the party leaders in Washington, are not at their core what they claim to be.
(I will now pause as I wait for the loud cacophony of protests to die down.)
Is everyone done defending their conservative honor so that I might continue? OK, good.
For those who think I’m crazy, may I present the following examples.
1. Republicans hate Obamacare because we, by definition, are against government intrusion into healthcare and believe in a free market system that would cure all of the ails in our country’s medical dispensing system. We are violently opposed to a government run single-payer system because we believe that it would destroy our nation’s healthcare as we know it.
One word blows this argument out of the water. And that word is: Medicare.
Let me define Medicare for you. Medicare is a government run, single-payer system that provides healthcare coverage to a vast majority of our senior citizens over 65. So by the definition above, Republicans should be doing everything in their power to get rid of Medicare.
But we’re not. In fact, when the push to stop Obamacare was being made, the most common Republicans tactic was to point out that Obamacare would cut Medicare by $700 million.
So if the above statement were true, wouldn’t we be all for anything that would cut Medicare? Or at least wouldn’t we avoid using Medicare cuts as a scare tactic to defeat the bill? The answer seems clear to me, but then maybe I’m crazy. Let’s try another one, but we’ll stick with the Obamacare debate.
2. Republicans also opposed Obamacare because, as Sarah Palin pointed out, the bill paved the way for “death panels” and that flies in the face of our core belief that life is sacred and we should do all we can to protect life.
Then why would we be against a government run system that would pay for every treatment available as opposed to putting those decisions in the hands of private insurance companies whose purpose for existing is to make profit and not necessarily save people. The answer is simple, it would cost too much and would lead to much higher taxes. Which is the whole problem with healthcare to begin with. It’s too expensive. And the reason it’s too expensive is because we spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to save people in the last six months of their lives without thought to cost or quality of life for the people we are saving. That is the conversation conservatives should be starting because free-spending liberals never will. If you want healthcare costs (and by extension, your taxes) to go down, grown-up decisions have to be made regarding what is good money and what is bad money to spend with regard to healthcare. Or in other words, death panels.
Let’s try one more.
3. Republicans pushed for basic standards in education because we as a nation were scoring so low in comparison to other countries when it came to math and science.
Which led to No Child Left Behind, which in turn led to Common Core, which in a further turn led to a barrage of standardized testing which is choking the life out of education. Now to be fair, I believe I, and Republicans in general, have come around to the correct side of this issue. Unfortunately, I believe that is because the name Obama is attached so closely to the words Common Core. The bottom line is that freedom by its very nature includes the freedom to fail, which sadly, a lot of free people are going to choose every time. But if we as a nation truly believe in freedom as a right as opposed to a slogan, then we are obliged to let them instead of trying to test each and every student into oblivion.
Which brings me to my ultimate point. Republicans are setting themselves up for another disaster in 2016 if they don’t figure out how to be what they say they are.
For decades, Republicans (and more recently the tea party) have claimed to be the sole bastion of support for the Constitution. If you listen to a political speech during a campaign or pay attention to any number of conservative media outlets, it won’t take long before you hear the cry go out that liberals are destroying the Constitution and we as conservatives are the only chance this sacred document has for survival.
However, if that’s the case, how do we as Republicans justify our representatives this last week during the debate over extending the Patriot Act?
Now before I get into this, let me digress. For two presidential elections cycles, Ron Paul has been viewed by most as the side-show circus act meant to entertain us while we try desperately to slog our way through a primary contest that borders on torture (which we also apparently support by the way). Very few have taken him seriously as a real candidate except his small group of avid supporters who would probably storm the Federal Reserve and burn it down if he directed them to do so.
But here’s the problem. His ravings were only bat-crap crazy about twenty percent of the time. The rest of what he had to say often made sense, regardless of whether you agreed with him or not. Unfortunately for Mr. Paul, he always seemed to undo himself by going off in his shrill, high-pitched voice on some lunatic ranting that would undercut his previously presented twenty minutes of solid logical thinking. In short, despite making many excellent points over the course of a thousand and one debates, he made himself easy to dismiss.
Such is not the case with his son, Rand.
Rand Paul holds many of the same beliefs as his father. But the son is a much more skillful politician. He leaves the 20% of tin-foil hat stuff at home while articulating the other 80% incredibly well. And in so doing, has developed quite the talent for highlighting hypocrisy in the Republican leadership, and by extension, the Republican Party at large.
The latest example of this phenomenon came last week when Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others took to the Senate floor demanding that the National Security Agency be allowed to continue the practice of collecting every Americans’ cell phone data in the fight to keep America safe from the threats of terrorism. Never mind that a major Republican pillar is that we despise the encroachment of a large federal government. You would also have to dismiss the awkward reality that this program flies directly in the face of the Constitution (which again, we claim to be the sole protectors of). According to the Republican leadership in the Senate, taking away this tool from the NSA would cripple our attempts to keep this country safe.
Well, just to be clear, I for one am all for safety. I love my family and want nothing more than to keep them safe. So sign me up for an opportunity to give away my freedoms if it means protecting my children from terrorists. And by the way, just how many terrorist acts have been prevented by the government snatching and storing my personal cell phone data?
Are you kidding me? The NSA can’t point to one single time that this practice has thwarted a terrorist attack?
Sadly, the data suggests that the answer is no, they can’t.
So then, why do they need to encroach on my constitutional rights? And furthermore, why are my “conservative” representatives leading the fight to keep this encroachment in place?
Well, these are the exact questions Rand Paul and his libertarian flavor of Republicanism kept asking throughout the debate.
So, that leads me to believe that those of us who consider ourselves Republican had better start asking ourselves one very important question. Does the party I belong to really oppose big government or not?
In my opinion, not only is that the question I should be asking, but it is the single most important question Republican presidential hopefuls need to be asking as well. Because right now, Rand Paul seems to be the only one who knows the right answer.
As for everybody else?
Well, let’s just say that lip service to core beliefs has been a recipe for disaster time and time again. In fact, the exact number would be five times since 1992.
(To those looking for day 2 of our California trip, I apologize. I will continue with that commentary in the coming days.)