21 March 2013

Republican Reform: Lincoln's Advice

If the Republican Party truly wishes to reform itself, it might begin with advice from the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln:

"If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend."

Before one can convince another that he is a sincere friend, he must sincerely be a friend in words and actions. The Ayn Rand faction that seems to controls so much of the Republican party (or at least influences much of its rhetoric) argues that helping weak people is immoral. Yet, to be a sincere friend of everyone, and not just the powerful in society, means the party will have to change it view of the weak, that is, the disadvantaged in society. Once it changes its view of such people, its rhetoric will follow.

The political issue Republicans should debate with the Democratic Party should be HOW to help those with little power, not whether to help them.

Should my Conservative friends argue that they sincerely want to help the disadvantaged, my reply is that their words and actions do not match. For example, tax cuts help those of us who pay taxes. I am all for them. However, such a policy alone does not directly and immediately help the disadvantaged, but may only help indirectly over the long run. So, what are poor people to do in the short run except suffer?

What Republicans need to do is develop both immediate and short term solutions to problems of poverty and education rather than defer them to a Darwinian form of the market where only the strong survive. Then Republicans need to communicate these solutions effectively before elections.

One of the best ways to communicate an idea is to put it into practice. What many of the disadvantaged in society see in Republicans are a lot of words without corresponding practice.

So, here is one other reform: Republicans need to run and win elections for local and state political offices, and gain experience in such offices before running for national office. I want to emphasize local governments, because it is at the local level that most government goods and services are provided (e.g. education, police, fire, etc.). Learning what government does best at the local level will help Republicans understand how government at all levels can be a positive force in society.

Currently, it seems the Republican model for a potential candidate is to make a lot of money in the private sector (or get to know a lot of rich people), then run for national office and promote anti-government policies. Republicans once ran for and served in local offices as a matter of practice in the past. Running for and serving in local governments helps such candidates better understand what governments at all levels actually do in practice, and also how governments are a positive force for social and business growth in many ways (no, I am not referring to Government Motors, uh, General Motors).

Sincerely finding immediate and long term solutions to poverty and education, along with gaining experience in local government will help rebuild the Republican electoral base. Doing this will not only change Republican attitudes towards government, it will help Republicans be credible with people by matching Republican words to Republican actions.