There’s no doubt (except perhaps among loyal listeners of Rush Limbaugh) that the Republican party is splintering. From the emergence of the Tea Party movement to the backlash against RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) to the political odd couple on the Republican presidential ticket in 2008, it’s nearly impossible to figure out how today’s GOP defines itself or what the party wants to accomplish, other than to defeat Democratic initiatives.
Reading a recent Newsweek article titled "What Republicans Really Want," I was hoping for some Nick Marshall-esque (Mel Gibson’s character in "What Women Want") insight. Perhaps this piece would define the Republican party better than they’ve been defining themselves, and I might get a better idea why I was right to leave the party or why I might consider returning.
Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.
The article touched on six major points: Job creation, the budget deficit and national debt, health care reform, our role in the Middle East, handling of terror suspects, and education. Read closely and it’s apparent that the two sides of the aisle aren’t that far apart on most of these points. But as the Newsweek writers point out:
"In zero-sum Washington, members of the opposition party have little incentive to help the president, especially if it means the credit for their actions could accrue to him and not them. If politics is the art of compromise, then politics as practiced in the capital is the art of preventing compromise at all costs."
Sad, but true, no matter which party’s in power. As close as the two sides may be on some issues, they push back against one another purely out of spite. Those Republicans who do attempt to build bridges are denigrated by fellow GOP pols, pundits, and party faithfuls.
But the primary reason I was disappointed in the article is that there’s no mention whatsoever of social issues. No discussion of federal funding for stem cell research, or gay marriage, or Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, or separation of church and state, or even the enduring issue of abortion.
These omissions, along with the right to bear arms, climate change, and immigration policy, were glaring ones. But because it’s the increasing social conservatism of the Republican party that has driven me away, those were the differences I’d most hoped to see addressed in the piece.
Looking beyond my personal priorities as a voter, it’s obvious that social policy has become a greater defining characteristic of the GOP than it was in the past. All of these issues were in the spotlight at one time or another under the previous administration or during the 2008 presidential election. Ignoring what Republicans really want in the social arena was a significant oversight on the part of Newsweek.
So I’ll help them out:
Republicans want to legislate morality in accordance with their standards of right and wrong, which are primarily defined by religion, but which are also apparently suspended at will by those in positions of political power.
Conversely, Republicans believe that anyone who does not share their beliefs cannot ascertain the difference between right and wrong. Without the threat of eternal hellfire, they have no reason to behave morally.
Republicans believe in personal freedom, so long as an individual makes choices in accordance with the values espoused by the party. Choices that differ from those values should be illegal. Punishment for penitent party faithfuls will be meted out by a deity; all others will be punished here on earth. By Republicans, of course.
In short, what Republicans really want is to play God. It’s no wonder this atheist is tired of their games.