By Scott Tibbs, May 8, 2009
Senator Arlen Specter created a stir last week when he abruptly left the Republican Party and joined the Democrats, and my response was "good riddance" and glee that Specter left the party where he never really fit. Specter improved the party by leaving it, and I only hope that John McCain, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins follow him to the Democratic side of the isle.
My primary problem with Specter is that he supports abortion rights. With over 50 million unborn children killed in the last 35 years, this is simply not acceptable. This is the most important moral issue of our time, with a death toll that leaves even the Nazi Holocaust far behind. It is critical that Republicans stand for life, especially since we now have the most pro-abortion President in American history.
Specter is also inclined toward bigger government and higher taxes, which is completely opposed to the vision established by Ronald Reagan in the 1980's and Newt Gingrich in the 1990's. As with abortion, it is critical for Republicans to embrace fiscal conservatism as we have a President that supports more government and higher taxes. Even worse, Obama is openly hostile to business. For more on Specter's squishy stands on fiscal issues, see the congressional scorecards compiled by the conservative Club for Growth.
The foundational question that must be answered is this: What is the purpose of a political party? Is it to increase the political power of a social clique? Or is a political party a mechanism for a group of like-minded people to advance a common philosophy of government? If the answer is the former, there is no point in supporting any political party. If the answer is the latter, there should be a line drawn somewhere, beyond which a candidate or elected official is not acceptable. The question then becomes where the line is drawn. Few Republicans would support Barney Frank if he ran as a Republican, though some "Republicans" would. Many of us believe that Specter crossed that line a long time ago.
Are Republicans too ideologically strict? Is that hurting the party? Absolutely not. "Values voters" motivated by abortion and protecting marriage are a large part of why George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. Even the Democrats "get it" on abortion, politically. After "values voters" hurt John Kerry in 2004, Democrats actually recruited pro-life candidates in 2006. Two of those candidates, Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly, defeated Republican incumbents and now represent Indiana in Congress. The idea that social conservatives can't win simply ignores history.
The problems that Republicans have faced in the last two elections are in large part due to President Bush and his advocacy for more government. Bush and the Republican Congress gave us a brand new federal entitlement program, a significant increase in the federal government's role in primary and secondary education, an inexcusable and anti-American "campaign finance reform" law that actually goes to the extreme of regulating the content of political speech, and attempted to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Republicans cannot win as the party of big government.
If the Republican Party is to bounce back, Republicans must return to the core conservative principles that elected Reagan twice and allowed them to win the Congress in 1994. A necessary part of restructuring the Republican Party is to remove many of these country club Republicans who are weak (and best) fiscal conservatives and are openly hostile to social conservatives. The GOP nominated a "moderate" in 2008 and not only lost, but saw the Democratic candidate get over 50% of the popular vote for the first time since the 1970's. We tried it your way, moderates. Now it's time to win.