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Milt Hankins: Republicans need to find themselves

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

Following a period of stone-walling and stone-throwing, the Republican Party finds itself “stoned,” in the finest sense of the word. A few members “up on the hill” are sobering up, realizing that the average voter is sympathetic with neither their platitudes nor their positions.

Platitudes? Well, family values, bipartisanship, economic recovery, job creation and moderation in political ideology for starters. They have done almost nothing to make an appreciable difference in job creation or the economy in general. They have become reckless with “family values.” They have moved so far to the right ideologically as to no longer be recognizable to the likes of Rockefeller, Percy and Lugar Republicans.

Positions? Far right-wingers have eschewed positions that were, at one time, essential planks in the Republican platform. They have forgotten that “some principles of American conservatism are based on classical liberalism” (Farmer, “American Political Ideologies”). 

Have Republicans, who now want more money spent on defense, forgotten that not long ago they pressed for combating nuclear proliferation and promoting bilateral trade with Russia and China? As I recall, Republicans were always about business and industry. Eisenhower was a strong promoter of healthy infrastructure; indeed, he gave us the Interstate Highway System. Republicans were strong proponents of environmental protection reaching all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt. They held positive views on basic social legislation. LBJ has long been considered the big spender for social welfare programs, but federal spending grew faster during Nixon’s tenure than during Johnson’s. Under Nixon, for the first time in recent history, social spending exceeded defense spending.

Clearly, Republicans are grasping for a straw — any issue that will resonate with the American people. For Mitch McConnell and his newly acquired Tea Party pals, the sole, overriding issue was the defeat of President Barack Obama. It failed. Now, they are almost unanimously determined to defeat the president’s plans,  which are working, effective and attractive to the electorate — even to some moderate Republicans.

To put it bluntly, either the Republican Party takes a new “sounding of the waters” and considers what it will take to keep them afloat or they are soon dead in the water! The so-called “scandals,” deeply embedded bureaucratic mismanagement, whining over legitimate travel expenses, repeated attacks on the Affordable Healthcare Act (which, incidentally, was originally a Republican idea), the Benghazi Incident, the Guantanamo Detention Camp fiasco, the acknowledged, liberal stance of this presidency are not going to bring down the Obama Administration.

As Charles Babington of The Associated Press recently wrote: “Republicans are struggling to keep pace with rapidly increasing public acceptance of gay rights.” (They have apparently forgotten that, in the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans carried 29 percent of the LGBT vote.) “They’re also embroiled in intraparty debates over illegal immigration. And a third sensitive issue charged back into prominence this month when House Republicans voted to sharply restrict abortion rights.”

Obviously, Republicans need to stumble upon a new playbook if they want to get back into the game.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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