What does it mean to be a Republican in 2016?

Anyone that knows me, they know I love politics. It is in my blood. When I turned 18 many years ago, I knew immediately what party I wanted to join; the Republican Party. Since that time, I was fortunate enough to intern in my local Congressional office, and became a congressional staffer a year later, which only fed into my love of politics. However, since most of my friends are not of the same political leanings as I am, I have mostly tried to remain quiet and maintain the peace on many controversial issues over the years. And for the most part, that strategy has succeeded.  Until this year, the year of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, when I realized I could not be silent on these matters any longer. There needs to be someone out there, a voice of reason, which articulates what the conservative position should be.

Limited Government

To me, first and foremost, being a Republican means a belief in limited government. Government should protect our way of life, protect our ‘inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ defend our freedoms, respond to national emergencies and allow for opportunities to enhance all Americans’ quality of life. I know there will be some detractors out there saying, ‘what are you suggesting? Should we get rid of things like Social Security and Medicare? Is that what you mean by limited government?’ And no, I am not suggesting we get rid of these programs. These programs have helped millions of citizens since their inception. These programs should always be protected and made solvent. But what I am most concerned about is sustainability of our government without us adding more entitlements and programs and causing the government to grow even more bloated that further risks completely bankrupting our nation and its citizenry. I am also concerned about intrusive government; government that tries to interfere in parts of life that is best left up to the individual to be responsible for, such as healthcare insurance. The smaller we can make government through reasonable and responsible spending cuts and cutting unnecessary government programs, the healthier our government will be.

Sustainability. This is something we need to hear from the politicians running for public office, and what solutions we can put forth to make sure government is sustainable. Right now, we have two large entitlements, Social Security and Medicare that are struggling to remain solvent. We have welfare programs that continue to increase in the number of Americans they are helping, and continue to rise in cost. We then added a new, massive entitlement in the form of the Affordable Healthcare Act. And right now, we are doing very little to reduce our national deficit and making it more manageable, which is nearly 20 trillion dollars. The numbers are going up, not down. And we need to do something about this before it is too late. Our culture is obsessed with fixing climate change before it is too late; that same determination should be applied to our government that is spending out of control; acting blissfully unaware that at some point, it may lack the ability to repay its own debts.

Recently we had presidential candidates looking to promise yet another new entitlement; one that would grant free college tuition to a vast majority of the American people. Again, from my perspective, this is a matter of personal responsibility, not something for government intervention. Much like how I feel healthcare coverage is a personal responsibility, paying for college tuition for all Americans is one not best handled by the government. It would drown us in debt, and force us to indulge in over taxation to pay for college tuition for all Americans and would harm the American taxpayer. As a political party, we must remind people that government was never intended to pay for college tuition for everyone. Paying for college has always been a personal responsibility throughout our nation’s history, where you can either work your way through college, or earn a scholarship or take out loans to pay back later or military service. Working your way through college or competing for scholarships gives individuals valuable skills, including being about to compete against others for scholarships and being about to sell yourself in an interview process. These traits help prepare new college students for the realities of the real world, but would be lost if the federal government simply gives everyone a free ride through college. Students are already being discouraged from competing against each other in elementary, middle and high schools as it as, afraid of hurting each others’ feelings and making them feel that they are not the same as other school children. Coddling school children by giving them free college tuition without them having to earn that tuition with their grades and schoolwork will only feed into a sense of entitlement, that they should expect their government to always provide them with free stuff, and it removes incentive for our young people to excel in their lives, and to be the very best they can be. But the truth of the matter is, nothing our government provides is free; and that the taxpayer is always on the hook for those services, both old and new.

What I truly believe is that we need someone that will be brave enough in high office to tell the American people, ‘no new entitlements, now or in the future. We simply can’t afford it.’ On the course we are on now, with nearly a 20 trillion dollar deficit, there will come a day that our nation will not be able to pay off its vast debts, and we will be left in dire straits. Big government is simply not sustainable. Even taxes are a finite resource; engage in over taxation and you deprive people of their ability to achieve their desired quality of living and deprive them of the ability to grow the economy. With too high of taxes, you would render everyone poor. Raise taxes too much without cutting spending, and you may find that no matter how many taxes you raise, you may not be able to cover all the debt. Print too much money to try and cover your debts, and your currency becomes devalued and worthless. Much has been made about the Affordable Care Act being deficit neutral or being able to slow down the rate of our deficit, which I simply do not believe to be the case. Even if the assumptions about the Affordable Healthcare Act were true and it was able to slow down the rate of our deficit spending temporarily as promised, it would be the equivalent of patching a few holes on the Titanic. Sure, you might buy yourself a few minutes, but your ship is still going to sink.  Let us not turn the United States government into the next Titanic. Let us stop the expansion of government and the introduction of any new entitlements, for as you may know, once we have a new entitlement, we will likely have that entitlement forever.

There are other parts of the government that are starting to become intrusive as well, including the Department of Labor. Between new, onerous regulations for overtime regulations, and the calls for Congress to raise the minimum wage (some of which are demanding unreasonable increases to the minimum wage), it seems as though it is getting harder for businesses to make profit, and to stay in business. Politicians forget that it is easy to pass legislation or regulations that they themselves do not have to operate under; but businesses themselves will not have that luxury. When we are talking about what may benefit workers, we also need to balance that with the needs of business, both big and small. We need to take into consideration, ‘can businesses actually afford this?’ Even if they can afford it now, how will impact their plans to expand, grow and invest in the future? How can it impact them when the economy suffers more down turns? To me, what people are currently suggesting, a minimum wage in excess of 12 to 15 dollars, is simply not a sustainable model for businesses, especially coupled with other regulations such as proposed changes to overtime rules. All these new regulations become even more money for businesses to dole out, and less money for businesses to be able to operate. New regulations can result in driving businesses to close their doors for good. We need a government and an administration that can balance both the needs of labor with those of business. So far, we have not seen this balance, and depending on who wins the White House in November, we may not see that balance anytime soon; with an administration favoring a political agenda over trying to do what is right for all sides. We really need an administration that takes into consideration both sustainability of policies for our businesses and what would work for workers, and to ensure that sustainability through a judicious use of restraint.  Just because government can do something, doesn’t mean that it should.  Proposed new regulations may seem like a good idea today, but it might become a nightmare for businesses tomorrow.

I will freely admit that the Republican Party, while in control of Congress, has shown a poor track record of exercising the principle of limited government while carrying out its duties in Congress. For me, that has proven to be greatly disheartening. However, limited government is a principle I think the Republican Party is striving for, and one that I laud, and so, for me, I feel I must do whatever I can to encourage the party to live up to its principle of limited government that I so adamantly believe in, so that a limited government may benefit us all, one that respects individuals’ personal responsibilities, and allows them to live according to their choices.

National Security.

Another big part of being a Republican for me has been the party’s traditional support of our military, and its emphasis on national security. For five years, I worked very closely with the military and our veterans as a Constituent Liaison in former Representative Heather Wilson’s district office. I have attended (and worked) several Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day services, helped many veterans received their medical and financial benefits from the VA, helped veterans receive the medals they were entitled to and I have come to really understand the character of our men and women in uniform, and the sacrifices they make. There is indeed great nobility in their military service, and what they continue to do for us today. There are no better people than those that have served in uniform, or the families that have supported them. My father also served in the Air National Guard for over thirty years, and I take great pride in our military. I understand the need for their sacrifices, and the need to honor them for doing what most of us cannot do.

Our world is a very dangerous world, filled with ISIS, Al Qaeda and other, aggressive countries seeking to advance their own agendas. The world will only get more dangerous if we allow our military to continue to shrink. Many would argue that we should not be the global policeman; that we should pull back, focus on ourselves and allow other nations to lead. Our nation has tried that in recent years; and our world has not grown safer, but instead, has only grown more dangerous. And now both Russia and China seek to expand their influence around the world, to replace us on the global stage as they build fortified man-made islands and destabilize former Soviet-block countries.  It is important to note that neither of these countries have our best interests at heart as they try to expand their influence and territory world-wide. We must have a strong military presence to be able to influence global events that favor our national interests; to promote freedom and democracy around the world. To deny the reality that if America does not lead someone else will is unrealistic. We either provide the leadership and the stability the world sorely needs, or we will surrender that option up to someone else, and we will allow them to shape global events as they see fit. I hope in the near future, Republicans will be able to stand up for the military, repeal the sequestration cuts, and start rebuilding every branch of the military; rebuilding our military infrastructure, adding to our military battalions and divisions, and  replace aging military equipment and expand our military capabilities. Our national security must always include a strong military able to provide for global stability, a sentiment that I don’t believe other political parties share, at least not to the extent of the Republican Party.  Some might argue that our military is the largest in the world and cutting it really wouldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is it already is hurting. This is an artilce from 2015 from the Department of Defense: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/604296/infrastructure-funding-level-poses-risk-officials-say. We must do something about this travesty and soon.     

Accountability (Individual, Government).

I feel a bedrock principle for the Republican Party should be the need for accountability and taking responsibility at both the personal and at the governmental level.

We have seen numerous times where the government has failed to live up to its expectations. The State Department failed in its duty to adequately protect our nation’s sensitive information. The botched roll out of the healthcare.gov website, which wasted millions of taxpayer dollars. The State Department failed to improve security for the Benghazi consulate before the tragedy in 2012. The IRS in the way it has handled 501(c)3 requests. The VA in how it failed to provide medical service in a timely manner to veterans on their waiting lists. The GSA and the IRS spending obscene amounts of money on lavish conventions and YouTube videos. The Secret Service, and all the public debacles with their agents involving the protection of the President.  The OPM data breach. The debacle with Operation Fast and the Furious program with the ATF.  In all of these cases, people in our government needed to be held accountable. People needed to be fired from their positions. They should not have been allowed to resign, be reassigned or allowed to retire. Unfortunately, in some of these situations, no one was ever truly held accountable, as these scandals were quietly forgotten. And if there were firings or if there were prosecutions, they never made it to the headlines; allowing government officials to quietly put these scandals to bed.

Government workers need to know that they will be held accountable for their inaction or their malfeasance while serving the public trust. If financial malfeasance occurred, the government must make those individuals repay any taxpayer funds they misused, or even prosecute them. I would like to see the Republican Party propose reforms to hold government and the individuals that work in it accountable. And I would like to see someone consider doing an audit on every agency and on every government credit card account, to make sure tax payer money is being spent appropriately. I am certain that if an in-depth audit were to take place, we would find that significant amounts of taxpayer money is in fact being wasted or abused, and would reveal avenues for which we could fix our government.

I mention all this because in the wake of Donald Trump, it is easy for many to question the Republican Party, to question what we believe in or the direction we’re heading in, and even grow angry with the party because of what he represents. The Republican Party in fact does need to undergo significant change, in what I would like to think of as its own version of the Catholic Church’s Reformation back in the days of Martin Luther. It needs to reaffirm what it stands for. We also cannot affect change if we do not talk about what needs to be fixed. We need to come together to decide on our values, and need to be brave enough to tell those that do not represent those values within the party that perhaps they should run as an independent if they are running for office, as we need someone to be a voice and an advocate for those core values that as a party, we hold most dear. I have come to the opinion that the Republican Party would have been much better off telling Trump when he threatened to run as independent at the very beginning of this presidential election, ‘fine. Go right ahead. Our party does not wish to be aligned with your behavior. We may lose another presidential election, but we will not lose our identity or our values.” I am deeply saddened this did not happen. In this day and age, there is nothing more important than how you brand your organization. And Donald Trump has certainly damaged the image of the Republican Party (something which has been damaged now for quite some time because of its failure to property define itself). This is something I will have to address in a later blog post. But suffice to say, even though the reputation of the party has been damaged, I still believe in many of the Republican Party’s ideals, and will continue to support the party to advance these ideals, provided we can fix its image, and fix the things that need to be fixed to make the Republican Party competitive in the future.

But for now, thanks for visiting and reading my posts! I hope they prove to be thought-provoking. If you would like to add to this debate, feel free to leave comments.

–Mike

  

 

 

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