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Fate of the Republican Party- A Must Read Perspective

April 02, 2010

The Fate of the Republican Party

By Steve McGregor

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The Republican Party is a minority, a supposedly insignificant force. Abhorrent legislation seems destined to remain law. The country is riven by disagreement over our basic civil rights. The Democratic Party labels us an “opposition party” or “the party of no.” I’m talking about 1854.


The similarity to the present day doesn’t end there. That year, Democrats used their own form of parliamentary chicanery to pass the Kansas-Nebraska Act in order to expand slavery to new states. As Bill Bennett writes in volume one of his American history text, “Democrats argued that the ‘sacred principle’ of democracy was that the people of any territory could decide whether or not to permit slavery.” Ironically, this was known as “popular sovereignty.” It was a bizarre attempt to claim an interest in civil rights while trampling the rights of others. And there was no one to oppose this bill.


That is, until a new alliance formed in Ripon, Wisconsin stood up and said, “No.” They called themselves Republicans.


But they were still a minority, fractured by competing interests and relatively leaderless. Then several things changed. First, the American electorate had a say in the matter, voting 73 of 157 Democrats out of the House of Representatives. They also elected 43 Republicans from scratch, providing a base. Second, the newly-elected Republicans stood firm. Instead of compromising with Democrats, they committed themselves to the idea that all men are created equal. Nowhere is this resolve better-expressed than in the man who emerged as the Republican leader: Abraham Lincoln. But it was six years before Lincoln ascended to the presidency, and he earned his election through public debate with the former sponsor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Senator Stephen Douglas.


Given this proud history, I cannot understand some of the recent Republican gripes. One commenter argues that we should forsake the “Republican” moniker because another noun is more popular. She quotes one poll of adults where 24% identify as “Republican” versus 40% as “conservative.” This is a bit like trying to convince Catholics to change to “Christians” to increase church attendance. Yet political parties, like religions, are more than just a brand. And have we become so arrogant that we assume a name change would suffice to achieve popularity? The American people are self-professed conservatives not because of the word itself, but because of their values.


Or take another complaint that Republicans never attempted to reach a deal. We decided that there would be “No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles…and ended with none.” Exactly right! We did not compromise like Representative Stupak or engage in backroom deals with unions or accept bribes like the Louisiana Purchase or lie to the American people like President Obama.


Already voters are responding. Public approval for Congress is in the tank. Politicians must have noticed too, because 34 Democrats voted with Republicans on ObamaCare. This is not the time to back down or reconfigure. 


Maintaining ongoing opposition to ObamaCare is a tough challenge — but no tougher than our fight against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Now, just as then, Republicans are uncertain about the future of our families, our party, and our country. As President Lincoln said, “The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred, defeats.” To succeed, we must raise voter turnout, refuse to compromise our principles, support emerging leaders, and engage in public debate.


“Life and liberty since 1854.” That sounds like a clarion call to me.
Steve McGregor is Special Adviser on defense issues to a peer in the British House of Lords and a post-graduate student in Social Anthropology at University College London. Previously he served as a captain in the Rakkasans. Read more at stevemcgregor.org.
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