Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Spector a watershed moment or just politics?

With Arlen Spector, one of the last moderate Republicans, leaving the Republican party, it makes one wonder where the party is headed. In defining what constitutes being Republican, Ronald Reagan, said it is:

"our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.”


I'm not a Reagan fan, but other than the idea that "lower taxes solve all problems" I pretty much support the above positions. So why am I not a Republican? It's because, with a few exceptions, these words are not backed up by the deeds of the party.

Republicans have been responsible for the most massive increases in government spending in our country's history, first under Reagan, and then under W. Their deficit spending may prove to be the end for America - at the very least it is certainly inconsistent with their purported "small government" stance. Far from it - Republicans have become the party of big government.

Likewise, individual liberty appears to have no place in the Republican agenda (other than mock self-serving support for the second amendment). It was Republicans who wire-tapped and otherwise spied on hippies in the 60's and, heaven knows who, under GW Bush - before 9/11. It's Republicans who are as guilty of attacking the constitution as Democrats, if not more so. Consider the Bush administration's extravagant claims to presidential power. Nixon considered declaring martial law and he would have done so, until he realized there were 50 million armed law-abiding citizens standing in the way (Nixon's Justice Department had a list, called the ADEX file, of thousands of known dissidents who were to be picked up immediately). Detaining Americans without legal or constitutional recourse. Warrantless searches on Americans. The list goes on. It's Republicans who want to tell us all how to live, who to marry, who to sleep with, what to do with our bodies, and what god we should pray to. The Republicans can make no valid claim to being the party for individual liberty.

So if you believe in the ideals expressed by the party's hero, then it would appear you're no longer welcome in this Republican party. In an NY Times OP-ed piece, moderate Olympia Snowe says it well:

There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party.


So are these things factors in Spector's decision to change from Republican to Democrat? Who knows. Cynics say it is simple politics, that the move is needed in order for the senator to win the next election. Even if that is true, it says something about the party. It says his constituency of Pennsylvania voters have already forsaken the Republicans.

On the other hand, much like Europeans, the Democrats don't appear to stand for anything in particular. This leaves them wide open to attacks as "tax and spend" or "socialist".

Both these parties need a reboot.

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