‘I am a Republican because …’
When I became a precinct chair in the Durham County GOP in 2003, the county chairman gave me a card with the heading, “I am a Republican Because…” that listed some of the party’s ideals.
Among them was the belief that “the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations and that the best government is that which governs least.”
For much of my life, this has ostensibly represented the area of policy that separated the two parties. The two parties fundamentally disagreed on how small a government could be while still doing the most good for its people.
But over the last several years, some Very Loud People have made increasing progress in their fight for the soul of the Republican party, and their message has nothing in common with the first two (and most important) ideals on the card I received two decades ago: “I believe the strength of our nation lies in the individual and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability, and responsibility must be honored;” and “I believe in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, creed, sex, age, or disability.”
The belief in the equal rights of all humans — and the abolishment of slavery that logically followed from that belief — was the reason the Republican Party was formed. But the job of equal rights, justice, and opportunity did not stop with the Emancipation Proclamation or with the Civil Rights Act that came 100 years later. Fifty-seven years on, we still have heavily documented educational, economic, and justice related disparities today and opportunities — small and large — are routinely denied to many Americans through discrimination.
The voices of those within the GOP that still believe in the core principle of equality are being drowned. The Very Loud People are shouting that teaching about racism will cause racism (an argument that makes slightly less sense than saying that teaching oncology will cause cancer). They are asking schools for data on religious beliefs in order to establish which religions will have their holidays recognized. They are rushing to ban books, they are passing laws on speech, they are attacking students, athletes, and clubs, and they are branding faculty members as “groomers” in an effort to deny homosexuals and transgender people their dignity, freedom, and equal rights.
They defend these attacks on equal opportunity by shouting about “woke” people. Woke is defined in most dictionaries as having a heightened awareness of issues of racial and social injustice, the very kind of injustice that the Republican Party was created to combat, yet in the mouths of the VLP the term is a pejorative.
If being aware of racial and social injustice is now the domain of the Democrats, then what of the foundational principles remain to the GOP? If being aware of social injustice is the problem, what is the opposite position, and why would any American want to be that?
The themes the VLP are campaigning on all have one thing in common: they are intended to suppress the rights, justice, and opportunity for some. They are intentionally divisive. They are patently anti-Republican.
I am friends with and family of a lot of Republicans, yet I know very few that believe in this new and terrible interpretation of what it means to be a Republican.
I think most voters would love to go back to debating how much good a government of the people can do for the people. I truly believe that these loud voices in the Republican party are appealing to a small, if active, minority of voters, and to that end I believe that most Republicans have more in common with today’s Democrats than they do with the VLP, because the important differences are not matters of policy or the size of the government, they are matters of principle and character.
The primaries are coming and I hope the voices for small government prevail over the forces trying to write a new card of Republican ideals.