Monday, July 06, 2009

The Value of Humility

The Republican National Committee refers to the 2008 Platform on its web site as guidance on issues important to the future of the GOP. A platform, a list of principles offered to define a political party, should be taken seriously by party members, officials and voters deciding on how they fit within the construct. So Red Elephant will periodically take a close look at the current Republican Party platform and what it means to the long-term viability of the GOP.

Most striking about the 2008 platform is the prioritization of issues. Within the platform are 72 planks, or individual topics that define the platform specifically. Of those 72 planks, six (or nine percent) of the platform address Energy, Environment and Education, all complex and important priorities for the prosperity and security of the nation. Yet these issues were apportioned a mere nine percent of the platform. So it is instructive to look closely at what makes up the remaining 91 percent of the platform:

§ National Security 16 planks, or 22 percent
§ Government Reform 13 planks, or 18 percent
§ Crime 11 planks, or 15 percent
§ Economy 9 planks or 13 percent
§ Values 9 planks, or 13 percent
§ Healthcare 8 planks, or 11 percent
§ Education 2 planks, or 3 percent
§ Energy 2 planks or 3 percent
§ Environment 2 planks, or 3 percent

So it is that the Republican Party in 2008 decided it intrinsically placed more importance on Values, or defining its morality to the public for the public, than it did on Education, Energy and Environment combined (as well as giving more prioritization to Values than Healthcare). Ironic, as one would rightly assume that the issue positions themsevles reveal the underpinning values.

The RNC Chairman’s Platform Preamble is illuminating as to why the GOP’s problems are largely derived from the prioritization and contradictory nature of its principles. The preamble itself is a Bush-era worldview with all the bravado of a wanted dead or alive poster and the righteousness of a papal bull. It says, “Yet we stand united today because we are the one party that speaks to all Americans, conservative, moderates, libertarians, independents and evens liberals.” Really? The election results of November 4, 2008 say differently.

89% of Liberals, who made up 22% of the electorate in that election, voted for Barack Obama. 60% of Moderates, 44% of the electorate, voted for Obama. Even Conservatives, 34% of the electorate, had doubts about the Republican ticket as 22% punched the ballot for somebody other than John McCain. Self identified Independents, 29% of all voters, voted for Obama over McCain 52 to 44 percent. These results speak for themselves and should reveal to the GOP that it does not come close to speaking for all Americans. However, the statement that the GOP stands united is accurate, as 90% of Republicans, accounting for 32% of the electorate was united in voting for John McCain. The election results speak for themselves; the GOP is too busy speaking to - or perhaps lecturing - Americans to know how to speak for them. These same results also mean the GOP would do better for now to listen rather than lecture if winning elections is important to the RNC.

As values are a mainstay of the Republican Party’s self-definition, the planks deserve some attention. The nine planks are 1) Upholding the Constitutional to Keep and Bear Arms, 2) Ensuring Equal Treatment for All, 3) Protecting our National Symbols, 4) Freedom of Speech and the Press, 5) Maintaining the Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life, 6) Preserving Traditional Marriage, 7) Safeguarding Religious Liberties, 8) Preserving American’s Property Rights, and 9) Supporting Native American Communities (especially those with casinos).

As it is too much to address them all in one post, the focus will be on Nos. 2 and 5. As to equal treatment for all; the GOP has clearly decided some voter segments are not as equal as the others, having polarized itself against the homosexual population of the country. This is largely due to the evangelical voter base within the GOP that views homosexuality as sin, often citing the Old Testament’s Leviticus. Since sin is the core objection that evangelicals have to homosexuals then they have a conundrum, since sin is not particular to any demographic. Pick any lifestyle and sin is present. For the sake of example, let’s choose…Republican politicians. Given the conduct of Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and David Vitter (R-LA), and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), perhaps the GOP should add this sinful demographic to the list of those who don’t warrant equal treatment as they too violate God’s law as recorded in Leviticus. Better yet, shelving moral judgment would free the GOP to leverage its heritage as a proponent of civil rights.

Maintaining the sanctity and dignity of human life is a noble conviction. However, this plank refers almost strictly to the unborn. Unfortunately, the principle to maintain the sanctity and dignity of human life in the GOP platform does not take the logical next step and extend the same principle to every issue: crime, healthcare, national security, government reform, education, environment, energy and the economy. Within each of these are Americans and American ideals suffering indignities daily: the released inmate without the resources to re-integrate into society, the homeless who are unable to feed or clothe themselves, the patient who could not afford health insurance, the low-income student unable to pursue an education, the administration of the death penalty (specific to judicial appointments), the treatment of non-combatants in U.S. custody, the senior citizen unable to afford prescription medicine, the jobless unable to provide for themselves or family at no fault of their own. These people are unaddressed by this particular plank, thus receiving no codified compassion in the Republican Party’s Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life plank.

The RNC Chairman’s preamble presents the 2008 platform with “genuine humility – before God and a nation of free and independent thinkers.” So the platform is offered in the spirit of deference and submission, but not in deference and submission to every American. More aptly, the preamble should state it is offered in modesty as it attempts to strike propriety of speech and presentation. This is apt because modesty is easy to discard when times get tough, as they are now for the Republican Party. However, humility is exactly what the GOP now needs. Humility will re-invigorate the compassion that is ingrained in the history of the GOP. A humble GOP will be recognized and appreciated by every voter demographic in the county, giving the Republican Party the opportunity to earn a second look from the conservatives, moderates, libertarians, independents and even liberals who abandoned it at the polls on Nov. 4, 2008.

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