Charlie Leonard: Inalienable Rights

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Let’s get a few things straight right up front: Republicans lost the presidential campaign in part because their nominee did not have the resources to respond to several hundreds of millions of dollars of attack ads launched by the president in May, June and July. They also lost it because they had an inferior get-out-the vote operation in comparison with the president’s. And yes, they also because they alienated several large blocks of voters, including blacks, Latinos, gays and women voters who focused primarily on reproductive rights. Those are the cold, hard facts.

I’m a lifelong Republican, but I’ve never agreed with my party’s positions on most social issues for the simple reason that I’ve never been able to reconcile them with our historical ideals of personal freedom and limited government. After all, if you truly cherish freedom and believe the scope of the government should be limited to the powers enumerated in the Constitution, it’s hard to rationalize such intrusive social policies as prohibitions on gay marriage and a woman’s right to make choices about her own body.

Similarly, I’ve never been able to rationalize hard-line attacks on immigration given our reliance on immigrant labor and our origins as an immigrant nation.

Still, I’ve largely supported and mostly voted for Republicans out of a belief that they would do a better job overall of limiting government and protecting the homeland (beliefs that I will admit, at times, have been based more on my hopes for the future than my knowledge of the past). And, for me, those two issues have always seemed to trump all others.

So, to the extent that the post-election analysis has exposed the challenges facing Republicans on the national level (though less so in the states where voters have expressed a clear preference for Republican governors), I think many of my Republican friends need to do some real soul-searching.

But Republicans are not the only ones who need to step back from this election and ask some hard questions. Just because the president was re-elected doesn’t absolve national Democrats of equal and identical flaws.

Does any serious-minded person really believe it was healthy or productive for the country for Democrats to run a campaign based on dividing Americans over income or ownership or falsely promising people that we don’t have to change our entitlement programs or make other substantial cuts in government spending?

Indeed, for the president to have campaigned on the idea that we can solve our problems by simply increasing taxes on the wealthiest was extraordinarily dishonest and detrimental to educating the country about the depth of our problems.

To be clear, I accept that taxes need to go up and they need to go up more on people at higher income levels. Not because of fairness – the wealthy already pay their share and a whole lot more – but simply because spending cuts alone will not fix the problem.

Remember, too, that the president lost a majority of white voters, a majority of men, a majority of independents and a majority of people older than 60. And he alienated those people in the same way Republicans turned off blacks, Latinos, gays and others. Can that possibly bode well for the president’s second term or the country? I don’t think so.

No, the president and national Democrats were no more inclusive in their appeals to voters than were the Republicans. They simply ran a better tactical campaign. And lest anyone be deluded into thinking otherwise, consider the following: The president’s collective margins in Florida (73,858), Ohio (103,481), Virginia (115,910) and Colorado (113,099) totaled just 407,000 – out of more than 120 million votes cast nationwide. Had just those four states gone narrowly to Mitt Romney instead of Barack Obama, he would have won the election.

Our first president, George Washington, never joined a political party. In fact, he was vehemently opposed to political parties because he believed that such factionalizing “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, (and) kindles the animosity of one part against another.”

Do you think Washington might have been on to something?


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