What Republicans Need: Less Gross, More Sense

The following piece addresses specific thoughts about the direction of the Republican Party.  While the writer is actively serving as Communications Director for the Polk County Republican Party of Iowa, the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Polk County Republicans, the Republican Party of Iowa, or the Republican National Committee.

If you’ve followed The Conservative Reader earlier in 2009, you would note that we discussed a need to rethink the Conservative/Republican agenda. We have not yet dug into that process deeply, although many have been voicing their opinions about what needs doing.

There has been a substantive effort on the part of some Christian Conservative Republicans to promote an agenda that honors God with a level of apparent intolerance to those who do not agree with them. “No Compromise” is their war chant. While their positions certainly fall within the same realm as my own, their approach, ability to listen, and ability to acknowledge that they will not achieve the political utopia they seek (especially not on their own power), are all sadly lacking in the true message of the very God they are trying to serve. Interestingly, some of these folks have even stated some of the clear Christian principles that come in opposition to their behavior: Love, Mercy, and the need to change hearts through the power of God’s Grace and not through human Law. Instead, one hears little more than condemnation, personal attacks, and hatred. These folks could do themselves and the world a greater service by listening more and saying less. Regardless, I hope they continue to speak out about what is right (without the personal attacks), because that is a message that the World needs to hear. But Politics is never the final playing field of Truth.

Contrast that with the efforts of Doug Gross, who in the August 30 Des Moines Sunday Register delivered an Op-ed piece recommending complete abandonment of our efforts to drive back the social diseases that have infested society and have been embraced by the courts. Gross, who has been an unsuccessful candidate for Governor, believes that the key to the Republican Party’s success in 2010 will be a complete focus on fiscal issues and minimizing of efforts to try to address social issues such as Abortion and Gay Marriage. His position seems to be as simple as this: the Republican Party will continue to falter while struggling with the “cultural and ideological wars”, so drop (or at least soften) the socials issues already so we can win. And he continues to argue with numbers of registered Republicans (which are a bit lower than Democrats and both largely lower than Independent… Iowa is mostly an Independent state) instead of looking at the very issues he decries and the overwhelming number of Iowans who continue to support Traditional Marriage and the lives of the unborn.

Doug also references research by the Iowa First Foundation. The focus of that research is party image. While I agree the image of the party is substantively tainted by public displays of in-fighting, a history of government largess, corruption and moral failure, it seems untenable to state that abrogating key party principles is really appropriate.

Keep in mind, the number one issue for Iowa Republicans is the Right To Life. The very first plank of the Iowa Republican Party Platform is:

1. A Right to Life

We believe life, from conception to natural death, is a sacred gift from the Creator and thus is an inalienable right as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Therefore:

1.1. We affirm that every innocent person, including the unborn child, has the God-given and Constitutional right to life beginning at conception and ending at natural death

1.2. We reaffirm our support for an amendment to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Iowa that protects innocent human life from conception to natural death.

1.3. We oppose using public revenues to fund abortions or organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, which advocate abortion.

1.4. We commend those who provide alternatives to abortion by meeting the needs of mothers and offering adoption services. We furthermore support their right to perform the services in a manner that does not violate their values.

1.5. We support a ‘Woman’s Right to Know Law’ whereby performers of abortions must provide complete factual information to the pregnant woman about the complications of abortion, the biological development of the unborn, fetal pain, and the availability of alternatives to abortion.

1.6. We support legislation requiring that upon completion of informed consent as outlined in “Woman’s Right to Know Law” there shall be a three (3) day waiting period before any abortion services can be provided.

1.7. We support legislation requiring consent by a parent and/or legal guardian before a minor child receives an abortion or any other reproductive services and products. Such law should require proof of identity of the parent in order to protect children from continued abuse by sexual predators who pretend to be the parent taking their child for an abortion.

1.8. We support the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

1.9. We support the use of non-embryonic stem cells to advance modern medical research. We oppose somatic cell nuclear transfer (human cloning), embryonic stem cell research, human fetal-tissue research from induced abortions, and the commercial use or sale of fetal parts.

1.10. We strongly urge that the 2002 Human Cloning Ban, which was repealed in the 2007 Iowa Legislature, be reinstated.

1.11. We believe euthanasia, assisted suicide, and infanticide are murder.

1.12. We support the ban of partial birth abortion.

1.13. We oppose the removal, by order of a court or state agency, of fluids or nourishment from those who are either acutely or terminally ill. We believe the decision should be left to the family or conservator.

1.14. Whereas DNA evidence is allowed in our Judicial system as proof of identity, we believe that DNA proves that a fetus upon conception, has DNA separate, from his parents, identifying him as a separate individual, with all the rights endowed him by the Constitution of the United States, that among these are the right to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

1.15. We believe in “conscience clause” legislation so that no physician, pharmacist or other health care provider can be penalized for refusing to prescribe, dispense or participate in the procurement of abortion or anything contrary to the conscience of the health care provider.

1.16. We support the confidential statistical reporting of abortion procedures to the State Health Department by all doctors and facilities performing abortions in Iowa.

A lot of Iowa Republicans, I would suggest that most of those that voted at the 2008 State Republican Convention, support this plank. Furthermore, I think that a large number of Independents do as well.

We have a similar story on Family Values. Much of the plank on this topic is focused on Traditional Marriage and sexuality:

6. Family Values

In keeping with the reality that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that our nation’s foundation and subsequent blessings flow from adherence to and respect for the Judeo-Christian ethic, we affirm the following:

6.1. Traditional, marriage-based (one male and one female) families are intrinsically procreative and thereby essential to a stable, thriving, and lasting civilization. Therefore, public policy must always be pro-family, encouraging marital and family commitment, while also supporting parental rights and responsibilities.

6.2. We support an amendment to the Iowa Constitution stating that “To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

6.3. We support an amendment to the United States Constitution stating that “Only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized in the United States, and that neither the Federal government, any state government, or the political subdivisions thereof may create or recognize a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.”

6.4. We encourage adoption of children by heterosexual married couples consisting of one man and one woman.

6.5. We oppose adoption by same-sex couples.

6.6. We believe access to sexually explicit material, especially on the Internet, poses a serious threat to our families and children. Therefore we must strengthen and enforce our laws to protect our families and children.

6.7. We believe in the sanctity of marriage and call upon the Iowa Legislature to rescind “no-fault divorce” laws.

6.8. We believe that parents are responsible for their children and we support the rights of parents to discipline and protect their children.

6.9. We uphold the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance, with references to the Creator as presently written, and believe that it is constitutional and does not violate separation of Church and State, but ensures freedom of religion and not from religion.

6.10. We oppose any law, ordinance or policy that would approve the practice of homosexuality.

6.11. We strongly oppose the UN “Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

6.12. We call for the repeal of sexual orientation in the Iowa Civil Rights Code and we oppose any other legislation or executive order granting rights, privileges, or status for persons based on sexual orientation.

6.13. We believe the father of a child, born or unborn, has the same rights and responsibilities as the mother in all matters regarding the child.

Again, this is what Republicans in Iowa believe in. There are other areas of social concern (Health and Human Service, Immigration) as well.

Do I think the platform is perfect? No, but then again I do think it is well done, and fairly well addresses the concerns of Iowa Republicans. Should we ignore or discard these sections of the Platform? That would be wrong. You may hear me suggest that in working with the opposition party, one must be prepared to listen and perhaps work out a compromise in order to achieve a path toward long-term success. However, the Party Platform provides the most substantive statement of what we think is “right” as Republicans and we must maintain steadfastly our core message.

Doug thinks that promoting our Conservative Social Agenda (read “religious”) will just continue to make Republicans irrelevant. Doug thinks that “Iowans get nervous when their politicians wear their religion on their sleeves.”  The image of wearing religion on one’s sleeve is dramatically at odds with the simple fact that for many Republican politicians, Faith is one of the key drivers behind their policy positions (as it is for many Iowans), and it is a sign of integrity that they make that fact clear to voters.  Although there are some who are turned off by that, I find that most folks I encounter find this honesty refreshing as long as aligning with that faith is not presented as a cultural or organizational mandate.

There is no doubt that we have a large amount of diversity within the Republican Party and that we need to be inviting even to those who don’t necessarily align perfectly with our entire platform (and I am speaking more toward party members than I am toward potential candidates).  But frankly, the challenge goes both ways: those who come in should learn to understand and accept the fact that the majority has established the principles and policy positions, and the majority should be willing to take the time to not only explain but to also listen to those that hold a differing viewpoint.  Regardless of the majority decisions on anything, each individual in the party has value and should be treated that way.

Doug provides some compelling and valuable ideas regarding areas where the Republican Party can make some improvements, and indeed the Party has already done so at the state level and within many county organizations. This includes working to engage our youth, leveraging newer communications technologies and strategies, and a stronger emphasis on recruitment. And, as Ted Sporer said in response yesterday,

Given the economic collapse our nation faces, and Iowa’s role as arguably the worst business climate in the nation, there really cannot be any argument that the economy is our best punch.

Agreed, the economy and the impact even the fear that Socialized Medicine brings to Iowans are areas of essential work.

But to deprive the public of both the information and opportunity to debate the critical social issues that assail us today is not only ingenuous, but weak. Despite the fact that Democrats hold sway in the Iowa General Assembly and that the Iowa Supreme Court is made of up folks that sincerely believe it is their responsibility to mold society to their value system, Iowans have and want the right to speak clearly on these issues.  Our party is their only real hope of having a voice.

There were some folks in our country’s history who did some awesome things… we call them the Founding Fathers.  When the Declaration of Independence was written, they debated references to slavery, and ended up dropping the language, an unfortunate decision.  Further work was attempted throughout the building of our nation, but it took over 80 years for us to address this disease on our society officially, and we still suffer some of the ill effects of this decision today.  But it took the forming of the Republican Party, and an unswerving commitment by the Party and its leaders, to bring slavery to an end.  It wasn’t politically prudent.  Lincoln almost lost his reelection  bid over the war that ensued.  But it was the right thing to do, and we are the better for doing what we know is right.

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There is one other aspect that needs consideration, especially if you are concerned (as Doug is) about the core value of “winning”.

I spoke with my dear wife about Doug’s position on this last night. Keep in mind that my wife is not as driven to engage in the political quagmire as I am, and typically does not express strong opinions on topics such as “What should the Republican Party do about the internal debate regarding social issues?”.

Her response to Doug’s position was simple. “That’s stupid”. And here’s her reasoning. If as a party we step away from our values, especially regarding Life and Traditional Marriage, we will instantly lose the support of those that provide the fuel for our party. These are smart folks… they read the Des Moines Register and blogs like this, they listen to talk radio, they work on their own key agendas, and they are fired up about how Republican Principles speak to their values, and I guarantee they read Doug’s piece on Sunday with angst.

Those folks might still vote Republican in an election, but their volunteer, financial and vocal support for the party will evaporate. Without this hard work and critical support, the Republican Party will no longer attract voters.

And, according to Doug, our “business is attracting voters”.

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I made a passing reference to a piece that Ted Sporer published yesterday at his blog. Ted was spot on, and as usual was able to express his position much more eloquently than I. Some of my thoughts and comments were helped by having read Ted’s piece, so I want to especially acknowledge that.

I also appreciate the opportunity to talk through these thoughts on The Beanwalker Live! program this afternoon (about 25 minutes or so into the program) with Tim Albrecht.  Tim is very sharp and a great sounding board for topics like this.  Catch his great site The Beanwalker.

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