Why I Still Think I’m a Republican (Rant #1)

I am not currently registered as a Republican. But I still think of myself as one.

I love Aaron Sorkin, and I especially love HBO’s The Newsroom. Yes, Sorkin can be annoying and preachy and way too clever. And the liberals on his shows, especially The West Wing, have this faux-piety and superior wisdom where they always know their opponents’ side of an issue better than their opponents do. Which I would say is an exaggeration, except for the fact that I heard President Obama say much the same thing, repeatedly. Maybe he was cribbing from West Wing scripts?

(By the way: this was intended to be a podcast episode, where I tied the following to theological convictions. But I think it’s better as a freestanding rant. And there will be a part two, where I call out politicians by name. You’ve been warned.)

Anyway: that pious arrogance was a trademark of Obama’s White House; “We know your interests better than you do, and if you just weren’t so selfish and dumb you would agree with us about what we want you to do.” It was also a feature of his foreign policy. Not terribly persuasive.

Obama was a tremendously gifted politician, and I celebrate the fact that American elected and reelected an African-American. But he also had an unfortunate tendency to be preachy, priggish, and self-righteous. And I disagreed with him on policy most of the time.

Anyway: I love Aaron Sorkin and I love The Newsroom. (The preachiness was more prominent on The West Wing, anyway.)

There’s a great Will McAvoy monologue from the first season–actually two of them, I think–about why he is a Republican, in spite of being critical of his party. As a conservative in exile, I think about those monologues a lot, these days.

I am not currently registered as a Republican. But I still think of myself as one, even though I am politically homeless.

And I still think of myself as conservative, not because I vote with a particular pack of people I no longer recognize politically. I still think of myself as conservative because I believe in what I believed in when I was a pack member in good standing.

I’m a conservative Republican because I believe all the things that Ronald Reagan (and pre-2012 Rush Limbaugh) believed.

  • I believe in free markets.
  • I am prolife.
  • I don’t trust authoritarian or totalitarian governments. Individual liberty is a God-given right. The fact that an authoritarian may have an R by his/her name doesn’t change the disqualifying fact that he/she is an authoritarian/totalitarian.
  • I believe in limited government. We NEED government, but we must always watch those who are governing us and keep them within their boundaries, because politicians are scum. Remember, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Political power, like every other power, ALWAYS CORRUPTS THOSE WHO HOLD IT. Even the politicians we like. ESPECIALLY the politicians we like.
  • I believe that politics is rarely a clash between good and evil. It’s almost always a clash between groups with competing interests. Which means that the way to approach politics is through persuasion, compromise, dialogue, and tolerance for incrementalism and trade-offs. The founders gave us a government designed to move at a glacial pace, most of the time.
  • I believe in common-sense solutions to problems. And I believe in working together through compromise with people of goodwill to find solutions to problems. There’s an old Croatian saying: “A man and a donkey are smarter than a man by himself.”
  • I believe in federalism and localism. We are fifty separate states for a reason. New York is not New Mexico is not Mexia TX, and solutions that work in one place won’t always work in another. Federalism and localism allows different solutions to be tried in different places.
    • Ergo, I believe in testing new approaches and ideas, trial and error, and keeping what works. If Colorado wants to legalize pot and Oklahoma doesn’t, GREAT. Each state should have the right to do what the voters of that state want to do, as long as it respects the rights of their citizens (see “voter suppression laws”.) And the 49 other states should be watching Colorado and learning from their successes and failures.
  • I believe in strong defense. The world is a dangerous place. The ability to bloody another country’s nose (or worse) is sometimes necessary, and I want the people who represent me to be the ones doing the bloodying.
    • Do you remember when Clinton’s Sec State, Madelyn Albright, expressed discomfort with the USA being the superior military in the world? She said it was destabilizing. I think that’s NUTS. If somebody is going to have the strongest military, I want it to be the military that fights on my behalf. I certainly don’t want it to be the people putting Uighurs in concentration camps, or a bunch of mobsters who were trained by the KGB.
    • Also, having the world’s strongest military forces us to think multilaterally. “America first” is fine, as long as America’s responsibilities to our allies and to humanity at large are a close second. That’s the price of being a superpower. Isolationism = telling the world to go to hell. And if we sit back and tell the world to go to hell, IT WILL.
  • I believe in fiscal responsibility. It’s not fiscally responsible to add 36% to the national debt in less than four years, the majority of it during no particular crisis.
  • I believe that character counts. I don’t owe Bill Clinton any apologies.
  • I believe in controlled but mostly free immigration. It’s a good thing that people around the world want to come to the USA. And we should want them to come, and they’re willing to come and work and obey our laws, we should welcome them. What good is a shining city on a hill if it has a “Go away, we’re full” sign on the front gate?

On all these issues, I believe exactly what I have always believed. That’s what Reagan believed. It’s what conservatives have always believed, or so I used to think. That’s how my mind has stayed the same.

Have any of my views changed? Yes, I can think of three places where I have changed my mind.

  • First, racism is a more entrenched and systematic problem than I used to think it was. The common definition of “racism” among conservatives limits it to “hating a person because of his or her race.” That definition is way too narrow. Funny: conservatives accept the existence of systemic sin when it suits us, and then argue to the death that systemic racism is a myth.
  • Second, I no longer believe in capital punishment, because our administration of it is always racially and economically biased. I do not reject capital punishment per se, but I reject it as unfair and inhuman as practiced in the USA.
  • Third, I no longer pretend to be a climate expert. If 99% of the scientists involved in studying the issue believe that our conduct is affecting the climate, I have no expertise to argue against them.
    • Does that mean trusting everything that is said in the name of climate protection, etc.? Endorsing the Green New Deal? Of course not. Cautious agnosticism seems prudent.

So that’s how my mind has changed, and how it has stayed the same.

So: If I believe what Republicans have believed for my entire life–and I do–then why am I the exile, while pretend populists rule the party to which I once belonged?

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