1) So long as it's in the opposition, where should the Republican Party focus its energy?
To be “in the opposition” is to allow someone else to define you by their actions and philosophy. The GOP should not stand “in opposition” but should follow its own principles and not swerve from those principles regardless of what a sitting US President – of either party - does. That’s my first quibble.
Quibble number two is that political philosophy should trump issues. Democrats love “issues” because “issues” prevent analysis of larger trends and political philosophies where Republicans dominate. For example it’s simple to look at the deaths of American soldiers and Marines and reach the conclusion that unilateral withdrawal is the answer without ever looking at the long-term effects of that decision and realizing that without a determined US foreign policy even more deaths and suffering will follow. The meaning of the Law of Unintended Consequences has always evaded Democrats on the journey to the exploitation of “issues.”
Now the areas where Republicans should focus should follow principles. Generally Republicans are on the side of “opportunity” which often brings them into opposition to those people who are more interested in “security,” but there is an issue where Republicans can attract those who are usually more interested in security. That issue is securing the US borders by the construction of a physical boundary and increased Border Agents.
The amount of nuclear material and the chances of some of that material entering the US in the form of a dirty bomb increases every day that we do not secure our borders and increase our inspections of international cargo.
The second issue is corruption. One of the keys to the 1994 Republican Congressional majority was the real and perceived corruption of the US House. In 2010, Republicans must make use of the under-reported Democrat scandals and the arrogance of both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The failed town hall meetings, the vote by the Senate Finance Committee to disallow a posting of the health care bill on the web 72 hours before the vote, the failure to reign in the slanderous rants of Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, the failure to remove Charlie Rangel from his powerful chairmanship (and for that matter, the apparent purposeful delaying of his Congressional investigation), the public statements deriding many of the American people by Nancy Pelosi, and the general contempt of Harry Reid all demonstrate an epidemic of arrogance that must be used. Then, Republicans need to be as ethical and as humble as possible or any advantage will be short-lived.
The third issue is energy independence. “Drill here, drill now” needs to be a mantra. In addition to pursuing alternative energy sources, nuclear power plants must be revisited in a common-sense way that allows safe, secure construction in a timely manner. Imagine a war between Israel and Iran and its allies. Now, imagine the cost of a barrel of oil after this war begins. That, I’m afraid is easier to imagine than a Middle East at peace and without sabre-rattling for the next 30 years while the current pursuit of alternative fuels plays out to a possible solution.
The final issue is health care. Contrary to liberal statements, the GOP has laid out possible solutions to bring about positive changes for health care: 1) The ability for companies to sell healthcare insurance nationwide which would make possible 2) truly portable healthcare insurance; 3) an inexpensive catastrophic healthcare insurance policy that would kick in only after $2 million in benefits over a lifetime (normal insurance should cover up to that point); 4 – reasonable tort reform; and, 5 – an insurance pool that would provide coverage for those people who are currently “uninsurable”. Another possible partial solution is to make medical training more affordable
By allowing nationwide health insurance coverage, insurance companies would have larger pools of insured clients allowing them to more accurately assess group risk and to write insurance policies that are less risky, so less profit margin is required to remain profitable because as a whole the groups’ results are more predictable. In addition, you would see “high-risk” policyholders get more affordable policies because some companies will be able to specialize in those areas and better predict losses – again due to larger groups and more feedback from the policyholders.
The catastrophic healthcare coverage was an idea years ago by the late US Senator Paul Coverdell (R-GA) and because it would be so unlikely to be used, premiums would be very low – probably less than $100 per year for a family of four. Two million dollars is an arbitrary amount, but that is the maximum lifetime payout for many health care policies.
Tort reform could simply consist of a panel of doctors and judges (special masters) to determine if an injury suffered was malpractice or was within the allowable risk for a patient. For example, if the patient is counseled that the removal of a brain tumor has a 25% chance of saving the patient’s life but causing permanent blindness and blindness results the doctor should not be sued unless it could be proven that the doctor did something to increase the odds that the surgery caused the blindness. If the doctor came to the operating room with a hangover, then that is a different matter and a lawsuit should happen.
One last thing, foreign policy will probably be an issue before 2012 and Republicans need to be ready to offer leadership solutions because President Obama’s administration is weak in that area and proving it more every day.
2) What is the most worrisome part of Barack Obama's presidency?
The increase in the size and the spending of the federal government is of a great concern. We didn’t like it under President Bush and we don’t like four times that amount of an annual deficit under President Obama. The second part of the concern is that it appears obvious that President Obama knows as little about economic principles (and what makes people prosperous) as is humanly possible and has no intention of learning by theory or by practice.
3) There's been a lot of debate about the role that talk radio and cable news hosts should play on the right. Particularly controversial are Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Mark Levin. What do you think about these folks? Do they help the right or hurt it (or is it more complicated than that?) How should Republicans interact with them?
Call me old-fashioned but I believe a good political debate is good for the nation. That’s why most Republicans opposed McCain-Feingold and other attempts to squelch free speech.
Does it help or hurt? It IS more complicated than that. I enjoy talk radio, but I don’t rely on it for facts, though it has proven to be much more accurate than the media elite gives it credit for. For example, does the fact that you failed to list Huffington Post as one of the websites you write for make you inaccurate? It’s certainly relevant to whether or not Republicans respond to your email and you left it off. So, do I ignore your request? No, I RESEARCH you further and find that I’m comfortable replying to you.
The bottom line is that MORE political debate is better than LESS. Any day, any way IF you have confidence in the American people and if you don’t then a Republic is not where you belong.
4) One particularly fraught controversy pertains to race in America -- with the first black president in the White House, some conservatives have been criticized as racists for opposing him, and some on the right have accused the Obama Administration or its allies of racism or anti-white sentiments (for example, Sonja Sottomayor's "wise Latina" comment drew fire, as did the Skip Gates incident). As the right thinks about political strategy and policy, how should it approach matters of race?
Liberals recognize only two sins in America: racism and hypocrisy. I find that liberals usually fail to have concrete beliefs and fall into the “situational ethics” trap so they can’t be accused of hypocrisy. This leaves racism as the hammer with which they are most comfortable. You know, ask a carpenter to fix something and he will first reach for his hammer?
Race should not matter. Does racism still exist in America? Sadly, yes it does. Should we try to end it? Of course we should, but not at the price of freedom of speech.
As I stated earlier, the GOP must stick to principles and this includes freedom of speech AND equal opportunity. Who is more like me, the man who looks different but has the same values or the man who looks the same but hates the things I love? The man who has my values and loves the things I love is my brother. The man who would tear down that which I would build is my mortal enemy. It is about intent and belief, not appearance.
5) Is there anything you observe locally, or that Republicans in your area of the country care about, that doesn't get sufficient attention in the national media conversation? If so tell me a bit about the issue, and the approach you think the right ought to take.
Republicans in my area want conservative leadership. I do not know a soul whose first choice for the 2008 GOP nomination was John McCain; this is not an exaggeration, I know of no one. He was suspect because he had no principles carved in stone. I believe Senator McCain loves his country. I believe he loves his family. I believe he loves the approving attention of the national media. I believe he does not have a coherent personal political philosophy.
To get conservative leadership, primaries need to be restricted solely to registered Republicans (minimum six months unless a new voter or recently moved) in all states where party affiliation must be declared.
Education is also an issue that gets ignored, probably because it is in such foul shape that no one wants to contemplate what it would take to repair it. There are a lot of good teachers caught in a poor system that forces them to be everything except teachers – and maybe Logic would be a good required course for middle school students, high school students and Congress.
Energy received a lot of attention, but as gas prices have declined that is no longer a focus. It needs to be a focus, because the decline in fuel prices is temporary. Where will the price of oil be if Israel and Iran begin a war?
6) Traditionally the Republican Party has been a coalition of religious conservatives, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives. Is that alliance viable going forward? If so, what must be done to hold it together? If not, what alliance should the GOP try to build?
I would say that the GOP has been a coalition of economic conservatives, social conservatives and libertarians. Social conservatives are not all religious and would include those whose primary concern is national security. That coalition is still viable.
7) Is there anything I didn't ask about that you'd like the media or the country as a whole to know?
I wish you had asked about where Conservatives obtain their facts, what are their personal political philosophies and how long have they been politically active.
Thanks and sorry for the delay,
Dodge County (GA) GOP Chairman