Topic: Real Republicans
What does it mean to be a Republican? Is it different than say being a Democrat? Are there principles that make Republicans different than other political parties? Or, do Republicans make their decisions about political direction by looking into their heart of hearts as one said in a recent meeting and then deciding what is right to do? Are there a set of principles that make being a Republican, an understandable and definable thing? Are these principles, solid or are they pliable? How do you know for example, when a decision is made, that it was a Republican decision as opposed to say, a Democrat decision? Should we as Republicans be able to hold our elected officials accountable to a set of principles that we can agree are those principles which should guide government? Or, do we just delve into that “heart of hearts” and hope we make the best decision?
These are concepts that are being debated all over our country today, and the only hope we have here is to add to that debate possibly some ideas that might help clarify it for ourselves and maybe even others.
The Republican platform adopted in June of 2004 states in its preamble, "We believe government must practice fiscal responsibility; and that taxpayers shall allow the government only the money necessary to provide appropriate functions." It was pointed out that the word "appropriate", has a different meaning to different people. And since it means different things to different people, different elected officials may, by consulting their own "heart of hearts", legislate from their conscience. Is this acceptable? Or are there, universally accepted concepts that tell us what government is and what it is not? Should our elected officials work from these concepts rather than from that largely untrustworthy, "heart of hearts"?
It has been pointed out that people define the concepts of governmental responsibilities differently. It is because of this very problem that our founders decided our nation would be one that would be ruled by law. Therefore, they codified the universally accepted ideas of limited government. That codification became our Constitution. When they formed the Constitution, they of course used a philosophy that they had come to through their reading of history, and observations of the failings of previous governments in civilizations antecedent to them. It is instructive to remember that their philosophy is what produced the Constitution. That same philosophy resulted in the early state constitutions. It also under girded the decisions that were made by the legislatures of the federal and state governments for decades after. We would do well to remember that the decision to limit government was not arrived at lightly. Today we violate those concepts, willy-nilly under the impression that we are doing some good to some people. The simple fact is that the decision to limit government was a wise one, because men are not God. Therefore, most day to day decisions were left to individuals in contractual arrangements, in civil arrangements, and in financial arrangements.
When the person mentioned above described reaching into their "heart of hearts" to decide what was "appropriate", someone else noted that just below that statement about appropriate functions, the preamble described what appropriate was. Here's what it said. "We believe the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations, and that the best government is that which governs least." Now we have to define "critical"!
Let's go ahead and define a couple of words. "Appropriate"- especially suitable or compatible. Synonym- fitting. Let's define fitting- 1 a : to be suitable for or to : harmonize with b archaic : to be seemly or proper for <it fits us then to be as provident as fear may teach us -- Shakespeare>
2 a : to conform correctly to the shape or size of <it doesn't fit me anymore> b (1) : to insert or adjust until correctly in place <fit the mechanism into the box> (2) : to make or adjust to the right shape and size <fitting the jacket to the customer>
Just what are we trying to fit? Are we trying to fit our conscience? Or, are we trying to fit a government that is fiscally responsible and limited? It appears that the idea put forth is that appropriate functions are those that harmonize with the idea of a fiscally responsive and limited government.
When people of good conscience differ it is necessary to repair to a set of codified instructions that will prevent them from embarking on a path that will result in violating the principles of government laid down in that codification. Thomas Jefferson, after further noting that the Constitution had "fixed the limits" of political power, concluded, "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." He advocated the idea that the fixed powers written out on paper were the limits of political aspirations. In the same way, we as Republicans have a document not so revered but valid for our forays into governmental action. We should either take our platform seriously or chuck it and move on. Either it has validity or it does not. For example, the first two sentences of item I of the platform state:
The Republican Party recognizes that the government is financed only from taxing its citizens. We believe the size and cost of government, as well as the national debt, must be reduced.
What does “reduced” mean. Does it mean “to diminish in size, amount, extent, or number” as Webster’s says? Or does it mean that we work up a budget massively larger than last years, cut some of the increases and call it a reduction? It is clear since the platform was adopted in 2004 that the intention of the document was to encourage the government of 2005 to be smaller than the one of 2004. Where in the country has that happened?
We, in the United States, live under the rule of the largest civil government, measured in budgetary terms, in history. Federal spending alone in fiscal year 2006 was over $2.7 trillion, which means the federal government spent $7.4 billion a day or $5.1 million in every minute of the year. This is 815 times the level of federal spending in 1930. The Idaho budget general fund is way over 2 billion and has increased at an even greater rate than the total budget every year. From just over 1.3 billion in 1998 to 2.2 billion in 2005 is an increase of over 69%. Our county budget has gone from 5.3 million in 1983 to 42 million in 2007. The figures are published by the government so I am not making them up. Private sector salaries in Bonner County have increased about 100% since 1983 but the County budget has increased almost 700% while the population in the county grew 54% in the same time. The government grew thirteen times as much as the population! This does not seem to fit the definition of “reduced”. Can we at least agree that a “reduction” has not happened and is not happening? What should we do in light of this? There has been little action holding elected Republicans to this responsibility at any level of government. How about demanding that the size of government as measured by dollars and cents be less than the previous year? That’s what the platform says. So the county budget in 2008 should be say, 40 million (just two million down from 2007) the state budget should be 2.85 billion (down only 150 million!) and the federal horror should shrink to 2 trillion again. More “reductions” next year! We can’t do it all at once. Suggest this to your legislators and listen to them howl! One of their favorite comments is some variation of “we will have to cut some important projects from funding…”. Most of the projects in question are not government responsibilities at all in light of the Republican Platform statement in the preamble “We believe the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations and that the best government is that which governs least.” And yet they trot out the caveat as though it answers the questions.
While this does not give a complete definition of a Republican it at least shows that very, very few legislators exist today that are Republicans in practice which is the only kind of Republican that matters.