It seems that not a week goes by that we don’t hear conservatives and libertarians moaning, ‘Why did we bother to elect Republicans if they’re just going to _____?’
Republicans seem to have forgotten what a political party is for. It’s a way to focus time, effort, energy, and money so that they don’t get dissipated. It’s a way of saying, ‘Instead of chasing all these rabbits, and not getting any of them, let’s just chase this one’.
I’ve been a delegate to one Republican convention. One was enough. (As they say, there are two kinds of fools: Those who have never climbed Mount Fuji, and those who have climbed it twice.)
It was enough because currently, the way it works is that some party insiders get together and come up with a party platform, and the delegates meet to rubber-stamp it, possibly making a few symbolic changes around the margins, so they get to feel a sense of ownership.
Which in itself isn’t a bad thing. It would be impractical to hash everything out in a general meeting. But where it goes off the rails is that the planks of the platform only have to be approved by a bare majority vote.
Why does that matter? Well, it means that there are ‘Republicans’ walking out of there who disagree with the platform. So when legislation comes up, they end up crossing the aisle (so to speak), and the next thing you know, school choice bills are failing while Medicaid expansion bills are passing, and it’s back to another round of ‘Why did we bother to elect Republicans if they’re just going to _____?’
The hardest thing to protect yourself from is friendly fire, because you never see it coming until it’s too late.
Just to use some numbers to think with, there are 400 seats in the House. Suppose 220 of them are Republican, but on a particular issue, 10% of them defect. That’s 22 votes, which is enough to lose control of the issue.
So suppose that the convention required, say, 95% approval to put something in the platform. Think about how that would change things.
To begin with, the friendly fire problem would go away.
Also, the platform would be really small! It would probably fit on one page. This would be a big benefit when campaigning, because it would make it easy for everyone to stay on message, and for that message to be understood by voters.
Best of all, the platform would amount to a legislative agenda — a list of things that could be passed and signed into law without having to consult, let alone court, members of other parties. If it’s on the list, you do it. If it’s not, you don’t.
(Except for repealing existing legislation, which would actually make Republicans ‘the party of smaller government’. More about that tomorrow.)
Basically, it would restore an important principle that seems to have been forgotten: To be effective, the members of a political party don’t have to agree on everything. They just have to figure out what they do agree on, and focus on that to the exclusion of everything else.
And the rock on which to build that agreement should be this statement from the Republican national platform:
We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
This is the cure for the RINO virus.
Is it going to happen? Not a chance. One unfortunate side effect of the virus is that it makes you feel good, because you’re being charitable (albeit with other people’s money), and you’re helping people lead moral lives (albeit aligned with your values, rather than theirs).
And that’s so much more enjoyable than having to say: ‘Well, it might be nice if we did _____, but we can’t do that and pass on our legacy uncompromised, so we’re going to have to say no.’
So it’s almost certain that the party will keep doing what it’s been doing, and keep getting the results it’s been getting — continued growth of both the cost and intrusiveness of government, all while claiming to be ‘the party of small government’.
But the cure is there, in case anyone wants it.