Well, the American people briefly gave the GOP control of both the White House and Congress and lived to regret it. In less than 12 years the GOP managed to take on the worst of the bad habits the Democrats had developed in the 40 years of their iron fisted rule.
The GOP became the Party of Big Spending, Big Government Buttinskys who proceeded to try and control our lives from cradle (attacks on a woman's right to choose and restricting stem cell research) to grave (Terri Schiavo) . Add to all that the Patriot Act and attacks on gay rights and interference in doctor/patient relationships and it is no wonder that now the GOP is seen as the Party that favors Big Government interference in our lives !! Boy have we gotten off course!
The irony is that the voters (about 2/3's) went to the polls in 2006 favoring smaller government, less taxes and fewer government programs and they voted for the Democrats who favor the opposite. It will be fun to watch how the Democrat leadership reconciles this dichotomy between now and 2008!
Where did the Party start to go off course? I would contend that the roots of their demise started earlier than the Iraq War or the Mark Foley or Jack Abramoff scandals -- even before 1994 when they took control of the Congress. Granted all of those issues added fuel to the fire that was already burning.
I would contend that the issues and hypocrisy surrounding our Party's conflict over a woman's right to choose helped set the stage for the Party's downfall this past year. And until they recognize these problems we won't regain the Congress or keep the White House...and frankly we won't deserve to.
Let's look back on how we started to go off course from the central principles of Republican philosophy....
Webster in 1989 was the first Supreme Court decision to limit Roe where the right to choose was upheld by one slim vote. This was a turning point for the GOP.
For the first time, mainstream Republicans started voting against the Party on this issue.
The American Association of Political Scientists' study on the 1992 campaign, It's Abortion, Stupid , made a strong case that the defeat of the senior George Bush was due to the 28% of Republican women defecting to pro-choice candidates Perot and Clinton.
In stark contrast to the rhetoric of the Party and its Platform, the 1994 "Contract with America" presented a cohesive GOP strategy which made no mention of abortion. Instead, it focused on issues which unite the Party and pro-choice Republicans came home for awhile.
Rather than build on the success of 1994, to give women and moderates a permanent reason to stay home....the Party leadership continued to stick to this Government interference strategy in its Platform and rhetoric. But they are hypocrites in reality. While they played around and pursued ways to chip away at Roe they were scared to go at it full force. Think about it. The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 through 2006 but not once did they ever hold a vote on the so-called "Human Life Amendment" that would outlaw abortion. Yet this is the centerpiece of the Party Platform on abortion.
The Human Life Amendment is a dangerous fraud!
There are serious problems with this amendment as policy. Just as Prohibition in the 1920s was unable to end the consumption of alcohol, a Constitutional amendment to ban all abortions would actually do little to reduce the number of abortions that occur. It will, however, end the practice of safe abortions, forcing women to return to the days of back alley procedures using coat hangers and chemicals. Women and their doctors would become criminals.
Also, this amendment raises questions no one seems to want to answer. Which contraceptives that interfere with fertilization would be outlawed? How long will a doctor have to serve in jail for providing an abortion? And the woman? Is she charged with murder? What will be done about women who self-abort? How will we know? Who will watch them? Who will turn them in?
Rather than admit this amendment is a disaster, anti-choice Republicans continue to pander on it through Platform language. They don't dare vote on it. They know a public debate in Congress on what a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion means would spell disaster for the pro-life movement and the GOP.
But by continuing to affirm the call for this amendment in the Republican Platform, the pro-life minority in the GOP continues to hand the Democrats ammunition.
I am not sure which upsets me more...the fact that this Amendment is terrible policy or the fact that I believe it is a bunch of baloney and that our Party leaders are scamming the public.
I make that latter statement not only due to the fact that this Amendment has not had a hearing or a vote but there are other clues as well.
On more than one occasion the Party Leadership has moved decisively behind the scenes to cut off possible attacks on the moderates in the Party that are contrary to their public rhetoric.
First, they worked with our group to stop a Party Resolution that would have cut off any Party money to any candidate that did not support the ban on the so-called Partial Birth Abortion. Second, at more than one convention they helped us stop even worse language from being introduced although their attempts to modify language to include us have been laughable.
Take for example the Statement of Principles which reads: The Republican Party wants "[a]n America with a smaller less burdensome government that trusts its people to decide what is best for them ... [a]n America where freedom of expression, individual conscience, and personal privacy are cherished and respected." Apparently these principles apply only to men.
The Statement of Principles added in 1996 would be comical if it weren't so insulting. How can anyone take these principles seriously when the Platform abortion plank specifically says the Party doesn't trust a woman to make the right decision, disrespects her individual conscience, and intends to intrude into her private life with a Constitutional Amendment that could help put her behind bars? It's no wonder the GOP continues to have a female gender gap problem.
Then there are the collection of words that were changed in 2004 to acknowledge that Republicans differ on some issues and that we "recognize and respect" the right to differ. They would not even identify which issues they were referring to even though it was language proposed to mollify pro-choice Republicans. What a joke!
In the 2004 election, women and moderates came home to the GOP due to national security concerns. That is the only way we have closed the gender gap in the past. But women are leaving the Party again and moderates have had it with the GOP's intolerant policies on everything from a woman's right to choose, alternative lifestyles or parochial cases like Terri Schiavo.
This exodus reached a fever pitch in the 2006 elections. Moderate mainstream traditional Republicans didn't just walk out on the Party at the polls...they sprinted...never once looking back. And from what they tell us by phone, email and by letter...it will take more than changing a handful of words in the Platform to win them back.
In 2008 John McCain's campaign attempted for the first time ever by any GOP Presidential contender to insert language, suggested by RFC, into the actual Plank on abortion that recognized that pro- choice Republicans exist. It also called for those who disagree to work together to find common ground to reduce the need for abortion. The extreme elements of the GOP on the Platform Committee that McCain's campaign did NOT control took the language out. But the effort to make this change was a step forward.
The GOP needs to do something bold and dramatic to show that they have changed their Big Government Buttinsky's ways if they ever want to be the Majority Party again in the future.
The issue of Choice is one area that they could reach out on in a meaningful and productive way.
If the so-called pro-life Republican Leadership was really serious about reducing the number of abortions in this country, the path to success is clear. Drop the abortion amendment plank and work together to change the culture. They would work with us to find common ground.
Together we could make abortions unnecessary through positive private programs that would end unintended pregnancies, not seek government intrusion as the solution. That's supposed to be how Democrats operate, not Republicans.
Our GOP leaders in Congress have squandered our previous election advantage and worse yet betrayed our Party's great history as the Party of new ideas and positive action especially when it comes to women.
Maybe they need a history lesson about the central role of Republican women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Alice Paul in pushing for women's rights in this country.
The male Republican legislators back then trusted women enough to give us the right to vote...our current crop of GOP leaders should follow their ancestors' lead and show that they too trust women enough to let them make their own medical decisions not put that in the hands of government.
To do otherwise is not very Republican.