As President Obama thunders ahead with his liberal agenda, unencumbered by any significant opposition in either chamber of Congress, the focus for the Right has been on how to re-invent the Republican Party so as to be competitive in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. This renewed and urgent focus is more akin to a meeting of rival mafia families, each faction unwilling to cede influence, power, control or status to another, than it is a quorum of individuals dedicated to true and original Republican principles. In light of this it is appropriate to revisit the founding platform of the party.
In the immediate aftermath of the inaugural 1856 Republican Convention in Jackson, Michigan (the party was founded in Ripon, WI, in 1854), the Republican Party declared as their founding platform commitments and allegiances to:
▪ The Charters of Freedom and States' Rights
▪ An anti-slavery doctrine including support of the Missouri Compromise
▪ The Right to Bear Arms
▪ The right to a speedy and public trial by a jury of one's peers
▪ Protection from unreasonable search and seizure
▪ Due process
▪ The First Amendment Right to Free Speech
Further, it was resolved that:
▪ Kansas be admitted as a state immediately with her Free Constitution intact
▪ A railroad reaching the Pacific Ocean be completed by the federal government
▪ Maintenance and improvements to the river ways and harbors be conducted by the federal government
“That we invite the affiliation and cooperation of the men of all parties, however differing from us in other respects, in support of the principles herein declared; and believing that the spirit of our institutions as well as the Constitution of our country, guarantees liberty of conscience and equality of rights among citizens, we oppose all legislation impairing their security.”
In summary – and to paraphrase – the platform stood for protecting the rights of individuals as outlined in the Charters of Freedom, the right to unfettered government recourse and due process in the event those rights were challenged. Further, it embraced only specific and limited measures that would provide opportunity for individual achievement and advancement. And lastly, it set forth a welcome mat for men of all ideas and affiliations who “believe in the spirit of our institution as well as the Constitution of our country.”
In other words, the original platform of the Republican Party was one of protecting the rights of individuals so that they could advance their individual beliefs and causes in society. What it did not establish was a platform of positions on special interest issues and litmus tests for those who would be put into nomination to lead the party, both in government and organization.
Today's Republican Party has abandoned these founding platform commitments. Instead, today's GOP finds itself naively acquiescing to false challenges put forth by our political opponent parties; taking concrete positions on special interest issues that divide the electorate into two camps. The Republican leadership of today has fallen prey to a political tactic that forces declared positions on special interest issues. Because of this the party has become a haven for special interest groups instead of being a pure political organization that protects the fundamental rights of all Americans, including special interest groups.
The Republican Party was created to protect the rights of the individual to champion their own special interests, to affect their own societal change. It is not the job of the party to advocate for those special interests, it never was. “Republicans” who don't understand this basic principle don't, then, understand the original tenets of the organization. Further , those who insist on acquiescing to the false challenge of special interest politics, those who have usurped the original intent of the party to “change” or “augment” or “cast their own mark” on the party are the ones who have destroyed the party. Just as it is wrong for a Catholic to “sometimes disagree” with the doctrine of the Church and include non-Christian ideology into what he “believes” being a Catholic is all about (and I use the religious issue as an example, not an issue) so too is it wrong for “Republicans” to “interpret” the founding principles of the party. Party members either adhere to original principles set forth by the party's founders and framers or they are not “real Republicans,” instead existing as a hybrid Republican designated so buy the mire fact of the founding principles.
The only thing that has to be done to re-establish the good name and brand of the GOP with the American people is to return to the original 1856 platform and expunge all special interest political declarations. In doing so the GOP would leave the Democrats as the only political party pigeonholing itself with declared special interest positions, thus limiting its numbers to those who embrace their declared ideology. This would leave the Republican Party free to cast the “big tent” it so desperately needs to regain meaningful influence in government without compromising on its core principles.
This isn't to say that the issues represented by special interest groups aren't significant. They certainly are. But if the Republican Party – and those who comprise its membership – truly believes in civic and individual responsibility then it must leave social advocacy to the individuals who comprise the party and private organizations, and not mandate that the political party advocate for their individual causes.
Republicans (and Conservatives) have preached individualism in responsibility and enterprise for far too long without putting their commitments into practice. In that respect, they have come to embrace the essence of what the Democrat Party is all about, collectivism and the “it takes a village” Marxist philosophy of “group think.” It is now time that they understand the reality of how to practice the philosophy they have been preaching but not employing by liberating the political party from the shackles of special interest politics while expending their individual energies to advocate for societal change on special interest issues.
The Republican Party was created 126 years before Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. The principles used to forge the party were employed in its creation before President Reagan's father was born. In light of these facts, we must stop lamenting about the Reagan years (prosperous and successful though they were) and instead embrace the roots of the party so that it may serve the people of the United States – and the world – once again.
The Republican Party was created to be a political organization that fights for the individual's right to fight, no matter what one believes, to paraphrase Voltaire. That's what the original tenets embody and what the party needs to mandate a return to.
If Republicans really believe in individual responsibility then this needs to be enough. If Republicans really believe in limited government, then this needs to be enough. If Republicans believe in life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the societal balance needed to achieve those ideas for all the citizens regardless of their political identity, then this needs to be enough. If Republicans can't see the brilliance of the organization's founding tenets and their exclusion of special interest politics and litmus tests then our party is lost. I only pray that we haven't become so intellectually stunted as to abandon our championship of the individual; to civic and individual responsibility.
Read the Opposing Views debate, How Can the Republican Party Regain Power?