In the last few weeks since the election some pundits and politicians on the left have pointed to the defeat of Mitt Romney and the beating back of Republicans in congress as an indicator of a bleak future for the Republican party. I myself am not quite so pessimistic about the prospects of the Republican party because it seems like the two party system will force Americans to sway back and forth between one terrible party and the other. That being said, I am rather encouraged by the responses that all of these doomsayers have elicited. It seems like many on the right, while disagreeing that the Republican party is no longer an effective political party, do agree that some structural changes need to be made in order to allow for better prospects in future elections. After all, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
The question that remains is, in what way should it be changed?Should it be more conservative? Should it be more moderate? Should it pander to Hispanics or Women or some other minority? In my estimation, all of these prescriptions miss the mark. Republicans are running around looking for a winning strategy when indeed it has been under their noses for at least the past five years.
In her November 23rd article on US News and World Report,http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/ballot-2012/2012/11/23/ron-pauls-strengths-may-provide-gop-roadmap-to-successRebekah Metzler introduces the Republican party to the political dynamo that is Dr. Ron Paul the Republican Congressman from Texas. Metzler contends that despite the fact that both of Congressman Paul’s bids for the Republican nomination have been unsuccessful, he may yet hold the key to future wins for his party. Metzler identifies three specific policy areas that Ron Paul stood for that propelled him to beat all of his Republican challengers with the 18-29 year old demographic in many states by overwhelming margins during the primary season and suggests that if the Republican party as a whole moved toward these positions they would be on more solid ground in the years to come. The three policy areas she outlines are his Anti-War stance which included a large scale rollback of the military presence world wide, his stance on auditing and then ending the federal reserve system which enjoys a government granted monopoly on printing money, and his federalist approach to social issues which included leaving things like abortion, marijuana policy, and gay marriage to the states rather than trying to find a one size fits all solution at the federal level.
I have to agree with Metzler about his anti war and federalist social issue approach but would beg to differ regarding end the fed. I’ll start with my disagreement by saying that I don’t think the younger demographic, nor minorities in general are particularly concerned with US monetary policy. I don’t think monetary policy is a popular issue with almost any demographic except, perhaps, trained economists. While I think that his role in educating the population on this issue has been an incredible breakthrough, at this point it still does not seem like a major issue. While it may or may not be sound economically for the Republican party to abolish the Federal Reserve Bank in the future, it is probably politically almost inconsequential.
On the other hand I think Metzler hits the metaphorical nail on the head when she explains Paul’s support from the youth demographic in reference to his anti war and federalist social policy positions. New members, or prospective members of the Republican party have grown up for most of their lives during constant warfare. They have seen the nation’s resources dwindle and thousands of America’s heroes be slaughtered in two wars that many feel have gone on longer than they should. Americans are weary of the wars and looking for change, which is partially what allowed Barack Obama to win by such sweeping margins in 2008 as he was the supposed peace candidate. Now after the first term of the administration, many feel betrayed by the continued waging of war. In 2008 Ron Paul was the only candidate for the Republican nomination who opposed the Iraq War. Similarly in 2012, the Congressman provided the only dissent among a flock of hawks with regard to Iran.
Some pundits opined that this alone was the reason for President Obama’s win despite the atrocious state of the economy, the American people just didn’t want another war and Mitt Romney seemed poised to give it to them. If the Republican party taken the hints of Congressman Paul’s success and moved away from the perpetual war ideology of the Bush administration, they could have made up some lost ground with younger voters and possibly anti war liberals. Even if it wasn’t enough to win this year it would have set the Republicans up for growth over the next two years if they had positioned themselves as the party of peace.
Social issues were a big player in this years election. From the exaggerated (if not entirely fabricated) “war on women” to gay rights to drug prohibition, Republicans took a hit on social issues this year. While trying to shore up the protestant base, they may well have scared off enough women and youth voters to cost them the Presidency and certainly some seats in the Senate and House. Here again the Republicans could have made up ground with women, minorities, and younger voters if they had moved in the direction of Ron Paul.
What is different about Congressman Paul is that he did not flip flop like Mr. Romney by suggesting that Republicans should take whatever position wins more votes at a given time, instead he has taken the principled tenth amendment position. On issues such as gay marriage, drug laws, and abortion Congressman Paul said that despite what he personally thought, these were issues that should be left to the states to decide, as per the Constitution. If Texas wants to outlaw gay marriages, legalize marijuana, and place restrictions on abortions while Massachusetts prefers to allow gay marriages, only allow medical marijuana and place no restrictions on abortions then why shouldn’t they each be allowed to?
Instead of trying to find a one size fits all policy to enact at the federal level that will certainly oppress a vast minority, why not allow for fifty different sets of rules and allow for state governments to compete? Certainly this will still leave some disgruntled minorities as all democracies do but at least minority opinions would have the option to move to a state with more preferable laws. This is how Republicans can outflank Democrats on social issues without having to equivocate on long held traditional conservative principles. This position, perhaps more than any other is one of the best options Republicans have to secure the youth vote for the party of limited government. This allows youth voters who subscribe to free market economics principles to side with the Republican party without having to hold their nose and vote for social positions that they find abhorrent to their own personal beliefs.
While it’s hard to say what would have happened had Congressman Paul been able to secure the nomination this year, it is a certainty of politics that no party can maintain itself without attracting voters from the next generation. While the Republican party may have snubbed Ron Paul, if they want to maintain relevance as a major party, they will still need his voters. The policies that have been outlined and championed by Congressman Ron Paul provide the best guide to future success for the Grand Old Party.