Opinion | Morgan Liddick: What Republicans believe
On Your Right
A correspondent recently asked what, in the absence of a party platform, did Republicans really believe?
There are at least two problems with the question. First, the party does indeed have a platform. After a bit of to-and-fro, it was decided to readopt the 2016 Republican platform with the addition of the White House’s specific objectives for the 2020-24 term. A copy can be found at GOP.com/platform.
Second, there’s always a question of how well any party platform reflects the beliefs of its members. This is certainly true for Republicans, who have a wide range of opinions on a variety of topics and no Committee for Enforcement of Doctrine and Punishment of Heresy that our Democratic peers seem to enjoy.
That aside, there are things on which Republicans generally agree. Following are a few of them.
Republicans believe that ours is an exceptional country and not in the every-country-is-exceptional, participation trophy sense of the word. Throughout its history, America has offered unique opportunities for belonging and success. Overall, those who came here and embraced its values flourished. Our country is by no means perfect, because humans are imperfect creatures. But it has noble principles, and its history has been one of striving to live up to them, with remarkable successes at no small cost. It deserves celebration, not loathing.
For Republicans, the individual is paramount. As the bearer of God-given rights, the individual is the focus of any government, and protection of his or her rights, freedoms and property is that government’s only legitimate purpose.
Most Republicans think that the smallest and most local government competent to “secure these rights,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it, is the best for the job. A government that is close and familiar — and therefore easily held accountable — is preferable to one that is remote, anonymous and inaccessible. Think local school board versus the Department of Education. Republicans understand that while government may be necessary, it can balloon into an instrument of tyranny in the wrong hands. Preventing bad outcomes require that governments remain strictly limited in power and scope.
Generally, Republicans are constitutionalists. They believe the Constitution, the Republic’s fundamental law, means exactly what it says. The federal government has legitimate power only in the areas specified in the document. Everything else, as the ninth and tenth amendments restate for clarity, should be off limits. Federal departments for education, housing, “human services” and much else — and the taxes required to maintain them — are therefore suspect. In our modern age of taxpayer-funded goodies for favored groups, this approach may seem antique, but it is written into our founding document so deserves consideration.
Republicans embrace capitalism. Not the corrupt crony capitalism of K Street lobbyists and government favorites, nor the “wild capitalism” of beggar-thy-neighbor pillagers and anything-goes boardroom buccaneers, but the capitalism where a good idea, honest effort and a little luck will allow a decent living, something for the future and charity for those less fortunate.
It’s said that Republicans are the creatures of “big business,” which isn’t true. Small-business owners are the heart of republicanism because of its core values of freedom, individualism, limited government and careful taxation. Megabusinesses generally favor Democrats because the latter’s taste for carve-outs and favors is more characteristic of the cozy and profitable crony capitalism we see with Facebook, Twitter and across Silicon Valley. These days, small businesses are driven to the wall by regulation while Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg profit by the billion. Republicans disagree with this sort of favoritism.
Republicans recognize that taxation is necessary to fund governments that protects our liberties, but most remember Jefferson’s admonition that “the power to tax is the power to destroy” and are therefore suspicious of taxation that seems confiscatory, punitive, unrelated to specific purposes or is maladministered. As a rule, Republicans believe that those who create wealth know best how it should be spent.
On social issues, Republicans tend to be traditional, looking to patterns of behavior that have proved successful and efficacious in the past. Included here are two-parent families and religious faith, the latter of which implies a few moral absolutes: The destruction of a child in the womb is an evil and the destruction of a child outside the womb is infanticide.
This list is not complete nor is it detailed; space doesn’t allow it. Hopefully, it presents an overview of some of the main points of the individual-oriented, liberty-centered beliefs Republicans share — beliefs in stark contrast to those held by our group-obsessed Democratic brethren.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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