Whether you follow along with the Tea Party or the “Republican Establishment,” it is clear that the GOP is deeply divided with strategy over ideology. Most Republicans believe that Obamacare ought to be repealed. However, some Republicans supported the government shutdown to repeal it and others (including myself) opposed it.
There is no argument on the shutdown’s repercussions. The Republican Party has the lowest approval ratings since 1992, and lackluster campaign donations. Conservative congressmen, as well as the party itself, are losing ground with super PACs: Democrats lead with $23.9 million to Republicans’ mere $8.9 million. Republicans used to lead back in 2012.
Advantage Democrats. 2016 looks like a much better year for them than for the Republicans.
As a Republican and a conservative, I must ask: why the bickering? Two weeks ago, I wrote a column that argues that the government shutdown is pure incompetence from Washington, D.C. I argued that that both parties, including those visible Tea Party celebrities, were much more concerned with scoring political points rather than governing and solving problems through solid, fiscally conservative policies that could pass with cooperation from Democrats.
As the column hit the social media world, I got attacked on Twitter for being a liberal Republican and was branded as part of the “Republican Establishment.” In fact, one Tweet asked, “Is @AUzarowicz really a conservative?”
Let me save you from doubt. I’m for repealing Obamacare because it is a serious and dangerous overreach of power from the federal government, just like Medicare Part D was back in 2003 under the Bush Administration with more than $9 trillion of unfunded liabilities.
There is too much bloated government spending from both parties: Republicans spent heavily under Bush, and Democrats have spent even more under Obama. Because of this, Republicans need to act like a party rather than like a conservative interest group.
As George Will argues:
So Madison created a constitutional regime that by its structure created competing power centers and deprived any of them of the power to impose its will on the others.” Republicans need to understand the U.S. Constitution.
Will, like other conservatives, understands divided government and that both parties need to compromise in order to pass legislation. Heck, both parties need to cooperate in order to govern and prevent government shutdowns.
It doesn’t surprise me that Republicans are doing poorly with the public at large and with campaign donations. The thing is that many Republicans care mostly about themselves, about who is “conservative” and who isn’t. They are obsessing over the word “conservative” and losing focus. That focus should be, in my opinion, directed toward lowering the debt and embracing federalism to restrain the national government.
Words like RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) or “Republican Establishment” along with “wackos” (used to generally insult the Tea Party) should not be used by anyone in the GOP. The elephant is frail and needs some medicine: prudence, as my colleague Derek Draplin wrote recently. Republicans need to unite and start governing again with policies benefiting the public good and not just a heavily conservative electorate that mandates Republican primaries. They need to propose tangible alternative solutions to the Obama agenda.
As much as conservatism matters, governance is primordial. It takes two to tango, and both parties need to duke it out with solid policy proposals instead of intense and vitriolic political discourse.
Case in point, check out Governor Christie. He was right when asked about Senator Rand Paul’s opposition to the wiretapping from the NSA. Christie’s argument is highly debatable on constitutional grounds, whether the NSA is justified to do what it has been doing under the Bush Administration and the Obama expansion in power. However, Christie was spot on when he told the media that such discussions should be kept in college classrooms instead of actual national conversations.
This is about governance, and not ideological conversations. Edmund Burke always warned us against ideology, because ideology shoots for a utopian mode of governance. Conservatism is a way of living, social customs that come from our own prescription and not political philosophies. These “esoteric” conversations, as Christie said, about ideology and what is “good conservatism” should stay behind in our classrooms and focus truly on service.
That’s the issue at hand here. If Republicans would care a lot more about the American people rather than pushing conservative ideology, we would have a much stronger party and much humbler and prudent party.
Republicans need to unite as a group behind good governance instead of strict conservative dogma. As Madison understood it well himself, governments are composed of individuals from a variety of political stripes and everyone needs to work together. This cooperation prevents one faction from delegating all public matters.
Tea Party members and Republican establishment types need to understand that their division is only serving the Democratic Party, emboldening the opposing faction and weakening their own. We need a clearly divided government to serve the public good and prevent tyranny, but we need an actual Republican Party First.
So how about it? Can we get along?