Friday, February 01, 2008

Is the GOP the REAL Party of Diversity?

What is a political party about, if not about political philosophy? It's not about gender, it's not about race, as neither of these factors is relevant, nor should they be. Since I can remember, the Democrats have talked about their "big tent" where all were welcome as they portayed themselves as the "party of diversity", but I find that portayal increasingly suspect, and their tent becomes smaller by the day. If you want to talk about ideological diversity in the Democrat party, talk to Joe Leiberman.

From where we find ourselves at this point, it would appear that the "big tent" that the Republican Party has sought for so long has indeed been pitched and diversity abounds. One need only to look at the Republican hopefuls in the 2008 Presidential race to see a wildly divergent field of candidates in terms of philosophy:

John McCain: A foreign policy hawk whose commitment to the military is unquestioned. On the flip-side however, he also has a history of pandering to the left on domestic and social issues which has infuriated conservative purists. His commitment to fiscal conservatism seems questionable as do many of his stands on domestic issues. Lack of executive experience is a minus.

Mitt Romney: The clear candidate of fiscal conservatives, whose business acumen is unquestioned. While there has been some questions regarding his stance on some social issues in the past, his foreign policy stands have seemed well in line with those who see foreign policy as a paramount concern. Domestically, he seems to be, at the very least, center-right. Good executive experience in both the private and public sector is a big plus.

Mike Huckabee: The social conservative candidate who is a favorite among the evangelical crowd , who seem to be his main constituency. He's a foreign policy neophyte, and his domestic policy seems questionable, at best. While being governor of Arkansas does qualify as executive experience, the fact that it was Arkansas is a mitigating factor.

Ron Paul who is technically still in the race is little more than a curiosity, whose main contribution to the debate has been comic relief.

Fred Thompson, who was probably the clear all-around conservative in the race, has, unfortunately dropped out. His mature and common sense views will be sorely missed as the selection process moves forward, but he and his campaign never seemed very determined and that was unfortunate.

Rudy Giuliani, who has also dropped out, was an interesting contradiction: a foreign policy hawk, a fiscal conservative with centrist domestic views and rather liberal social views. I liked Rudy and I think that he may well have been able to unite manyof the main factions of the Republican Party and would have have had pretty broad appeal in the general election.

This is a pretty varied field of individuals, philosophically speaking, with no one candidate being the embodiment of all the needs of all Republicans. The debate has been vibrant, indeed even hostile at times, but such is the nature of intra-party politics. Most importantly, the debate has been centered on policy and political philosophy, which is, and should be, the nature of politics in general.

In contrast, among the Democrats we have the following field of contenders:

Hillary Clinton: Could become the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the office of President who is a foreign policy dove, but has dabbled in periods of hawkish platitudes when it suited her ends. She's fiscally, domestically and socially liberal. She's an unreconstructed 60s-type leftist who believes in the power of the state in all matters and whose basic views have not changed in more than 40 years. Her role while her husband was president was to pull him to the left, while his better instincts (to his credit) pulled him to the right. During that time, her claim to fame was the design of a top-down government takover of the nation's health care system which, thankfully, failed miserably. She was elected to the US Senate as her first elective office, almost exclusively due to her last name. Save the health care debacle, she has no executive experience and her claim to the highest office in this country seems to rest upon the fact that she's a woman, and her husband was president for 8 years.

Barack Obama: Could become the first black to be nominated by a major party as a candidate for President of the United States. He's been a US Senator for 3 years and previously was an Illinois State Senator. Obama is, admittedly a great speaker who has chosen "change' as is campaign slogan, but offers few clues as to what that change might be. He speaks in flowery oratory which is rooted in little substance. He was recently named the most liberal member of the US Senate for 2007 by the National Journal. He has been a consistent opponent of the Iraq war and favors withdrawl - a position that he has consistently maintained. Obama has no executive experience, few concrete ideas but has garnered the support of such bastions of liberalism as Ted Kennedy. He has captured the imagination of many on the left, presumably because imagination is a key component in understanding why he is a candidate in the first place. Oh, did I mention he was black?

Yes, there was also John Edwards who has recently pulled out of the race. Edwards was always a bit of an empty suit who was never a serious contender.

The Democrats seem intent on 2008 being the year of identity politics as they pin their hopes on either the leftist woman, or the leftist black man. Where does a moderate or conservative Democrat go? There is actually a place for liberal Republicans, such as Giuliani, in the Republican Party, is there a place for conservative Democrats in the Democrat party? If so, where are they in the field of contenders? The Left rejoices in the idea of diversity, as long as the diverse identities are philosphically monolithic. While the Republicans are debating a variety of policies and ideas, the Democrats seem to be mired in gender and race.

From my perspective, the party of "diversity" is, and continues to be the Republicans - for better or worse.

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