Separate the politicians from the party
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 01:02
The level of contempt and animosity directed toward Republicans is unmatched in the political arena. In my view, this is not by virtue of the views Republicans espouse as much as it is due to the party's failure to properly project and articulate its views. While at times not ideologically fitting its principles, unpopular Republican politicians cause public support for the party to exponentially drop. It's important for us as Americans to distinguish the actors from the party and its message; otherwise, we will inevitably be bound to misperceive the party and the values it represents.
Since its founding in 1854, the Republican Party's popularity has been extremely oscillatory and volatile. But more extreme than its level of popularity over the course of its history has been the vitriolic names given to those that subscribe to its conservative ideology. These names include accusations of being bigoted, homophobic and racist.
Although each of these names are as laughable as they are inaccurate, the unfortunate truth is that the Republican Party has utterly failed to refute these falsehoods.
It has often been viewed as rooted in religiosity as it is seen as steeped in constitutionality. The long-standing myth of its policies and supporters being racist has failed to be debunked, though it was the Republican Party that eradicated slavery in the 19th century. Instead of focusing on some of its universally accepted and appealing views on fiscal responsibility and taxation, the Republican Party has chosen to emphasize its positions on the most divisive of issues: social issues. Now, more than ever, the Republican Party needs to hear a lecture on the importance of public relations, a subject which it has proven to be entirely incompetent about.
Aside from the misperceptions surrounding Republicans' views, the party has too often been defined by its actors, messengers and politicians instead of its positions on different issues. The irony of this is that many of these politicians don't clearly represent the conservative principles and values that they claim to. For instance, in the 21st century, the popularity of the Republican Party suffered tremendously. Much, if not all, of this tattering of support was due to former President George W. Bush's terms in office. But did former President Bush govern as a genuine conservative?
Instead of examining each and every one of the policies he put into effect, let's focus on the ones that Americans had the most disdain for: his handling of the economy.
Surely, fiscal responsibility is one of the more important issues which with Republicans are concerned. Bush left his predecessor close to an $11 trillion deficit.
Now, although he may have felt justified in fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which inevitably allowed for a sharp increase in the deficit, his decision to bail out auto companies and give banks funds in order to keep them solvent were not conservative actions whatsoever. But of course, it's inevitable for an unpopular former president who claims to belong to a party to end up hurting that party's popularity with his decisions. But what about the misconceptions surrounding Republicans' views outside of their representatives' views?
It is no secret that many Americans believe Republicans are racist. However, a simple reading of the most primitive history textbook will reject such nonsense. The very founders of the Republican Party were anti-slavery activists.
In fact, its beginning was rooted in its opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have allowed slavery to continue in those territories. The Republican Party's founding was based on its merciless resistance to the continuation of any form of slavery. How unfortunate it is that a party whose founders fought racism, now close to two centuries later are accused of being exactly what they fought against.
Having said that, heated and borderline racist rhetoric on the part of Republican politicians certainly does not improve the party's image when it comes to the race issue. Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, for example, who is one of the last standing Republican presidential candidates, has recently gotten himself into trouble with this issue. He said he would go to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and explain "why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."
Instead of condemning Gingrich for his comments and thereby strengthening its credibility among moderates, the Republican Party remained silent and allowed the inevitable to happen: its image to further disintegrate in the eyes of moderate and independent voters.
The party has done its supporters a terrible disservice by emphasizing its hardline positions on social issues as opposed to drawing attention to its positions of fiscal responsibility, lowering taxes and preserving our capitalist way of life. But even in light of this drawback, the party has allowed falsehoods and gross hyperbole to generate the narrative that Republicans are somehow "anti-gay."
In the least, the party could lend the issue the slightest degree of perspective. For example, although President Barack Obama, Secretary State Hillary Clinton and a whole host of Democratic politicians share the exact same definition of marriage as do most Republicans, somehow this fact gets conveniently tucked away in the sand. Why is this?
There is no rationale or logic that could possibly explain such public relations malpractice, aside from the party's absolute incompetence to effectively project its positions to put our country back on the path of prosperity.
Additionally, it is the party's responsibility to make it clear that when an elected Republican official behaves contrary to our conservative ideology, there is a distinction drawn between that actor and the values Republicans actually embrace. We can no longer afford to lose our popularity as a party due to the mishaps of a particular politician because he is associated with the party in one way or another.
But most importantly, the Republican Party has failed its supporters by not properly articulating the positions which it espouses.
And in doing so, it has failed the American people by not affording them a clear alternative to the liberal policies of a democratic party which have proven catastrophic.