*I am in the process of examining the Republican Party’s national platform. That is, the official statement of purpose and vision for the party and presumably the policies that Romney would work to implement should he get elected President. Today I am covering select political and social issues.
Many of the things Republicans and Democrats argue over are differences in perspective or philosophy. But there are some arguments that simply ignore American history and current trends. Some of the political components of the Republican platform illustrate this fact.
Republicans are for the restoration of Constitutional order. This refers to the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. As much as Republicans complain about the way Democratic presidents have abused their authority, the same can be said of Republican presidents. Presidential power was expanded during the Cold War because of the heighted threat of the Soviet Union and all presidents took advantage of their extra authority.
In addition to the bi-partisan nature of Presidential authority, the second reason Republicans should not complain about any imbalance in the separation of federal powers is that Congress has repeatedly gone along with and signed off to fund the expansion of presidential power. Always eager to be perceived as protecting the American people, Congresses in which Democrats were in control and where Republicans were in control have usually voted to appropriate money to whatever project the President told them would make the country more secure. This is also a phenomenon that began with the Cold War: Truman (Democrat) began with asking for $400 million to stop Greece and Turkey from becoming communist countries; Reagan (Republican), toward the end of the Cold War earmarked $1.5 trillion for a missile defense system that didn’t exist and was technologically impossible to design.
The flipside of this coin is that Congress has always had the ability to deny funding programs and thereby curbing the growth of presidential power. But when the rubber hits the road Congressmen of both parties fold up. For Republicans to make this an issue only when there is a Democratic President (this was not part of the Republican platform in 2004 when George W. Bush was the incumbent Republican president) shows an incomplete understanding of American history.
Related to this plank of the Republican platform is their distaste of what they call judicial activism. This complaint revolves around the judiciary not siding with conservatives on the topic of gay marriage. More specifically the Republican National Caucus believes that marriage is defined by a man and a woman. People have challenged this assumption and judges have agreed that our government cannot realistically base their recognition and sanctioning of relationships on the Republican belief. Because of this Republicans conclude that judges are changing the our society.
What’s really happening is that society is changing, and the judicial decisions these judges are coming to reflect the changes in society. Indeed judges of both political parties are following their Constitutional job description to determine whether a law aligns with our Constitution. These judges are concluding “No.” This doesn’t mean judicial activism; it does mean that Republicans are losing ground on this cultural battleground.
The Republican platform in these two instances are expressing their distaste with the way a Supreme Court decision has gone and the way Congress has decided to spend our taxes. Had the Supreme Court decided that the universal healthcare law (passed by Congress) was unconstitutional, there would not be any charges of judicial activism. If Romney is elected and decides to go to war with Iran or North Korea (both part of the axis of evil), there would not be any charges of the President being too powerful. If an action is wrong, it is wrong no matter the political affiliation of the President. But Republicans have shown that they embrace activities by a Republican chief executive that they then condemn when done by a Democrat.
This theme of sour grapes also explains their desire for voter registration reform and support for the electoral college. On the surface it would appear that ensuring that there is not fraudulent voting is a positive. But taking a closer look at this issue yields blatent racism. Consider that there has never been a substantial number of erroneous votes tabulated in a presidential election. What there has been over the past decade and a half is an increase in the amount of Latino voters. Supporting voter registration reform is a way of combating a non-existent problem while disfranchising working class and racial minority voters more likely to opt for Obama. By supporting the electoral college the RNC puts their weight behind another issue that is not a sore spot on the national landscape. But it does show their fear of the popular vote becoming unduly Latino in nature and what that could mean for contemporary Republicans who have been virulently anti-immigration.
The most quixotic stance taken in the RNC platform is that of environmental conservationism. The Republican Party admits that environmental conservation has been successful over the past few decades. But then they declare that the strategies used to accomplish this success need to be abandoned. In this vein, they state that the EPA should be reined in and conservationism be left in the hands of private businesses.
This stance is completely nonsensical. It is a terrible strategy to entrust people who are supposed to use whatever means are available to them to turn a profit with caretaking the environment. Unless it can be proven that conservation means a better bottom line, it is silly to think a private company would pursue conservation seriously.
This stance regarding conservationism is even more inane when you consider that another part of the RNC platform is promoting an all of the above strategy toward energy development. How does a company deal with clean water and air when they are attempting to harness nuclear power? How does a company practice conservation when they are trying to mine as much coal as possible? There are parts of the RNC platform that are reasonable. there are parts that I disagree with. But this part makes no sense whatsoever.
From a certain perspective it is admirable that Republicans have drawn a line in the sand and attempted to govern based on their religious, economic, and political philosophies. But it seems plainly obvious that American society has grown beyond their vision for it. Ergo the solutions they propose will not fix what ails our country.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.