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Posted by on Mar 2, 2009 in At TMV | 8 comments

How to be a Republican in the Age of Obama: Three Choices

I don’t try to assume that I know everything when it comes to politics: I’m just some guy with a laptop likes to run at the mouth or keyboard.

But in looking at the GOP in the weeks since Barack Obama became President and since the Democrats have taken power,I see three options for how Republicans can go forward in this new time. I will say straight up that I have a bias in one of these options. But all of them will be looked at with the good sides and the bad sides as well.

Option One- Confrontation. This is the one that seems to be getting the most play right now by the GOP in Congress. Instead of trying to work with the Democrats in Congress, they oppose their plans on the hope that, if these plans don’t work, then the only ones who will be blamed are the Democrats. Maybe the most visible person for this option is Rush Limbaugh.

The upside is that this approach tends to unite Republicans around a cause. It gives the Sean Hannitys of the world, something to fume against and as the left can tell you, expressing outrage can be a unifying event.

The downside is that this approach offers no ideas or alternatives to the Democratic plan. It’s full of empty calories – all rage and nothing else. It’s also a pretty risky option. What happens if Obama’s plans work? Then the GOP has egg on their faces and their ranks shrink further, which then gives the Dems free reign to offer up plans that are pretty terrible in the long run (ala welfare programs of the 60s and 70s).

Option Two: Accommodation.
This option assume that since the Democrats have the power in Congress and the White House, that the only option is to go along and try to make small changes where possible. This approach seems at times to be the one many centrist and moderate bloggers want. The representative of this approach would have to be Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, one of three Republicans to vote for the recent stimulus.

The upside of this approach is that it is realistic and is partly how things get done in Washington. The three Republicans in the Senate realized that they could only cut so much from the bill that would pass muster with Democrats. So, they did that and made what seemed to many conservatives as a bad bill, not so bad. As they say, elections have consequences and one of them is that Republicans have to accept that they are not in the drivers seat anymore.

The downside of this option is that while it is programmatic, meaning it is how things get done in Washington, it offers no new ideas, just checks against the ruling majority. While going along works in the short term, it is not the way to build a strong party in the long run. No one wants a pale copy of the Democrats when an original will do.

Option Three: Adaptation. The third and final approach is one that sees and acknowledges that the playing field has changed, but instead of simply going along with the new majority, it comes up with ideas of its own in light of the new reality. The person who personifies this approach is Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.

This option isn’t interested in going to the barricades in some valiant struggle against socialism, but is willing to offer a credible conservative alternative. They are willing to look at issues like the environment and gay marriage, not as some liberal agenda, but because times have changed and these are issues people are concerned about.

The downside of this option is that offering alternatives takes some time is fraught with danger because it challenges the status quo. Trying to think of new policies takes a while to incubate. What is the conservative approach to global warming, or health care? These take time. Also, those who have a vested interest in the old order will find ways to try to shut reformers down, seeing them as heretics. The most common parallel is that of the New Democrats of the late 80s and early 90s. The rise of the Democratic Leadership Council was to find out how to be a Democrat in the Age of Reagan. Bill Clinton was able to find ways to achieve liberal ends using conservative means.

The upside is that this could lead the GOP out of its wilderness experience and into leadership. It could spark an intellectual revival in the GOP, where there is an interest in devising ways to solve national problems with conservative tools. Unlike the first option, it won’t feel good at first, but in the long run, it would produce conservatives who feel good about themselves and the nation.

Of course, I am biased towards option three. While the media has been focused on the Conservative Political Action Committee, Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber, I think there is a quiet interest in a more technically-minded conservative that is interested in solving problems than in riling up the pack.

My own guess is that option three will be the route the GOP takes…eventually. It will, because you can only fill up on the empty rhetoric of a radio personality and a plumber from Toledo only so long.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Janjanjan

    I applaud option 3, but doubt that conservatives can circle around that approach, but not for the reasons you name. The main reason they can’t do this is because so many in the party are convinced that they don’t want to actually tackle these issues. They deny that climate change is a human problem and reject any national solution to health care. On the economy, they rally around tax cuts only, as they believe that the only real economy is composed of businesses and individual buyers. They see new spending as permanent and fiscally unsound while somehow convincing themselves that tax cuts are temporary and don’t require massive deficits. On education, they believe that it is ultimately fine to have a crippled public education system, because they prefer to educate their children in homogeneous environments. I see myself as fiscally conservative, but find myself appalled by the utter selfishness and callousness of the Republicans as I’ve listened to them during Senate and House hearings recently.

  • greenschemes

    The biggest problem for Conservatives is that right now the Democrats are having a blast making fun of the GOP. Poking fun at us. Laughing at us. Calling us funny names. Making fun of our values and beliefs as if they are somehow so 20th century. Just like forever etched in our brains is Michael Dukakis. Many people when they think of a liberal they think of Michael Dukakis and his oversized helmet sticking out of the tank turrent looking like Mel Brooks. Spaceballs anyone?

    We are laughing stocks. We had a president who I am convinced was secretly a Democrat planted by to destroy the Republican party.

    But honestly the Democrats did not change their beliefs. The things they stood for in 1994 they stand for today. They are powerfully in power. Not because this country has swung left but because this country is in the middle of laughing their heads off at the GOP.

    Just wait. Given enough time the country will be laughing at a president who really believes 5 trillion dollars in deficits during his 1st term is actually a good thing now that the Democrats are in charge after 25 years of railing against Reagan and Bush for running up that much deficit in 25 years.

    Lets see 4 years vs 25 years. Just give them a chance to be in charge. They will show us what fiscal Irresponsibility is all about and then the American people will be laughing at them once again.

  • CStanley

    Option two is completely untenable and some elements of option one are completely necessary right now. This is because the times we’re in aren’t normal and thus the Democrats aren’t enacting normal policies which can be contained by an opposition party that nibbles around the edges. What the Democrats are doing is making a decision to fundamentally change the center of American political philosophy- and it’s impossible then for the GOP to oppose that by fighting to win small concessions.

    Unfortunately it’s true that those in Congress who are doing the opposing will come across as divisive and obstructive, which isn’t going to win hearts and minds. That’s why the third option has to come from outside Washington; Huntsman is fortunate that he’s at liberty to stay above the fray, and I do give him credit for where he does show guts- opposing the hard right constituents within his own jurisdiction. That does take political courage, and hopefully it will bear fruit for him as other people outside of his conservative state give him credit for him and begin to see him as a credible opposition candidate to Obama in ’12. I happen to agree with the three key areas he’s identified where the GOP needs to moderate- environment, gay civil unions, and immigration, so I think he’s on the right track.

  • Well, right now the republicans are on the path of self destruction.
    They strike out against everything President Obama does with absolutly no credible plans of their own.
    The main goal for every politician should be the survival of our country and they MUST work together for us to succeed.
    It appears they are move involved in party first, self interests, unworkable policies, outdated, unacceptable ideas.
    There surely are some responsible, intelligent republicans out there but we have not heard from them. There must be some who are willing to put country over party. Where are they??

  • CStanley

    Katie, they’re in the same place as the Democrats were when they opposed the Iraq War. Why didn’t you criticize them for not going along with Bush’s plans for the sake of succeeding? Why weren’t they expected to offer an alternative plan when they felt the administration’s plans were doomed to failure?

    Because if that’s what one fundamentally believes, that the administration and majority party’s policies are doomed to failure, or that they’re eroding what America actually stands for, then there’s no room for ‘coming together’.

  • Just a reminder. Almost ALL of the debt is a republican creation.

    I’ve posted it many times, because these are the facts, based on white house numbers, including those from the Reagan, Bush and Bush white houses. These three are the ONLY administrations since WWII that have increased debt as a % of GDP. All other presidents have worked to pay down the debt. How will Obama do? Time will tell.

    We’re in a very precarious place right now, because Bush both trashed the debt side of the equation, and the GDP side. Now we don’t know a way to decrease the debt side without decreasing the GDP side by hastening our slide into an economic abyss. Rather than railing against Obama spending programs designed to put people back to work building a more sustainable green economy, how about offering some real solutions? GS? Anyone?

  • CStanley

    Rather than railing against Obama spending programs designed to put people back to work building a more sustainable green economy, how about offering some real solutions?

    I think first that you’d have to show that Obama’s programs really will be likely to do that.

    And I’m not that well versed on energy policy, but I’ve felt for some time now that a solution for moving toward energy independence AND renewable/environmentally sound policy would include ideas from both sides of the spectrum. For instance, open up the OCS for drilling, as long as new technology which is more environmentally friendly is used, and under the conditions that the new profits be reinvested into R&D for renewable energy usage (this could be piggybacked on govt investments into the basic science research, similar to how we fund medical R&D.) And incidentally, the leases from the newly opened oil fields would provide govt revenue for that investment as well.

    The oil companies obviously know that their long term prognosis is not good, and they will want to move into new directions if it’s economically feasible for them to do so. And meanwhile, since we don’t have the capability to move toward renewables as quickly as people would like, we have to realistically address the effects on the economy of restricting oil supply.

    In addition, support all forms of noncarbon energy, including nuclear- again, if environmentally sound technology exists.

    The problems come when there’s resistance on either side of the aisle for political reasons, and no one has the will to stand up to those on their own side who won’t compromise.

  • CS, we’re in uncharted waters. Maybe I can’t show you “proof” that Obama’s green economy ideas will “work” as in reviving the economy, but they will improve our future and short term at least, get people working. I think we can assume that people won’t spend us out of this mess without a job. The job creation for OCS exploitation is paltry by comparison, and the results MUCH farther out. 10 years to produce a drop, but we can save a drop tomorrow.

    120 million homes to be retrofitted, and similar upgrades to commercial buildings. I CAN prove that it is cheaper to save enough energy to avoid another power plant than it is to build one, and that it creates local jobs for carpenters, roofers, solar installers and the makers of green living equipment.

    Nuclear, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver as its proponents claim. The energy and environmental costs from mining to disposal outweigh the power produced. Furthermore, uranium prices are doing what oil prices did, skyrocketing, and we’ll be facing the end of uranium supplies just as quickly as we run out of oil. Even from a strictly business standpoint it’s a loser, even though we excuse the nuclear industry from bearing the cost of their disaster insurance (because insurers, the risk experts, won’t take the risk).

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